Naming a restaurant after a Colombian television series on the life of drug lord Pablo Escobar seems like a daring move. Then again, opening a Colombian restaurant on the island of Manhattan could be described the same way. The island is not exactly overrun with Colombian eateries — which is really a shame. This is a bright and colorful cuisine, familiar to Americans in its ingredient selection but not their often-novel combination.
El Cartel, slated to open in Hell’s Kitchen on June 3, seeks to fill that void. Here non-initiates will be acquainted with the likes of chuzos, a Colombian street food consisting of pork and chicken skewers served with mini versions of the ground-maize cakes arepas (arepitas). Tostones are formed into cups filled with octopus, chicken, or steak.
El Cartel, 613 Ninth Avenue (bet. 43rd and 44th Sts.), 212-540-6613.