If good, hearty Dominican cooking is what you're after, Dominican Restaurant 5 in Deer Park just may have the pernil for you.
But don't expect any frills. The modest space holds a steam table and a line of booths. While the place does offer wait service, it can be sporadic and slow. The priority here seems to be the huge takeout business, with orders being filled nonstop.
One night, a bowl of chicken soup has great depth of flavor; it's rife with hunks of poultry on the bone as well as vegetables. Yet, an avocado salad turns out to be nothing more than a sliced avocado -- a very good avocado, but a naked one.
I'm a happy eater as I dig into a plate of moist, savory pernil, roasted pork, that falls away in shreds and hunks, a cap of oven-glazed skin placed jauntily atop. Accompanying yellow rice and beans are very good, fried sweet plantains exceptional, lightly caramelized to a crackle. A friend's barbecue-style chicken is actually baked poultry pieces burnished crimson, oozing highly seasoned juices. The dish is a winner. So, too, is shrimp in a revved-up garlic-laced red sauce.
Mofongo, a specialty made with mashed green plantains and garlic, may have originated in Puerto Rico, but it's long been a staple of Dominican cuisine. Here, it's a bit firm and chewy, molded into a tall cylinder; I get mine with a profusion of succulent shrimp in a rich and garlicky sauce. A big hit is my dining companion's chicken stew, bone-in pieces of poultry in a tomatoey sauce.
One letdown is a Cuban sandwich, ordered to go. Although the grill-pressed sandwich is piled with roasted pork, ham, cheese and pickles, there's no spicy mayonnaise, no mustard -- nothing but the juice of the pickles to add moisture. Had I gotten the sandwich in the restaurant, the situation might have been an easy fix.
As a finale, flan is light and custardy, but it's surpassed by the tres leches (three milks) cake as rich and moist as any I've eaten in the Dominican Republic, a country whose cuisine reflects the warmth of its people.