East Williamsburg’s increasingly crowded and eclectic dining scene is getting a new entrant. Ricardo Cardona — perhaps best known for being the chef to the New York Yankees and a personal chef to musician Marc Anthony — is teaming up with Carlos Letona, a Jean Georges and Per Se alum, to open Aura Cocina, a Cuban-Asian fusion restaurant coming to the neighborhood in the second week of March.
The 200-seat restaurant, located at 315 Meserole Street, between Waterbury and Bogart Streets, is tentatively opening on March 12, but an exact date is yet to be determined. Cardona was inspired by recent visits to Thailand and Japan; he says he found many similarities between the food there and Latin American cuisine, particularly the use of cilantro and coconut, and the interplay of sweet and spicy flavors.
That inspiration can be seen in dishes like spring roll with oxtail; tuna ceviche with yuzu, jalapeno and fresh mango; churrasco steak with chimichurri, hoisin, wild mushroom, soy and yucca fries; churros with ginger and dulce de leche; and lemongrass creme brulee with passionfruit sauce. Appetizers will run from $10 to $15 and mains will cost between $18 to $30, according to Bklyner.
The massive space was inspired by 1950s Havana mixed with the industrial vibe of the neighborhood, according to interior designer Alfonsina Waters, who worked on the project. Leather and velvet couches are interspersed with rows of tables and chairs, exposed brick walls, a marble-clad bar, and a green wall, based on the renderings shared by the restaurant team.
Cardona, who runs his family’s catering company and has been feeding a range of high profile clients including the Yankees and Anthony, is collaborating with restaurateurs Steven and Elaine Almonte on the new place. Letona, who’s also worked at other fine-dining restaurants like Tribeca’s Atera and Soho’s Le Coucou, serves as the co-executive chef along with Cardona.
The restaurant now joins a crowded and buzzed-about dining landscape in the area that includes the likes of Taiwanese-American hit Win Son, and Guatemalan bistro Claudia’s. A first of its kind “brewery” dedicated to craft cocktails is also set to open within the same building as Aura Cocina later this year. The restaurant was originally set to open around Thanksgiving last year, according to Bushwick Daily, but will now debut next month.