As he honed the concept for a Latin-Caribbean fusion restaurant, Luis "Domingo" Almonte traveled to Puerto Rico in the summer of 2017. His goal was to sample one of its signature dishes as widely as he could. "I'm a mofongo addict," said Almonte, alluding to the dish of garlicky, broth-anointed fried and mashed green plantains. Almonte also traveled to Moca, in his native Dominican Republic, which is known for trifongo, a version made with sweet plantains and cassava in addition to the traditional green plantains.
The result is that there are 10 types of mofongo on the menu at Taino's Cafe & Lounge, an ambitious restaurant, bar and lounge that Almonte opened on Middle Country Road in Coram in November. "We don't do as much garlic as in Puerto Rico," Almonte said of the mofongo ($11 to $25) that can come topped with different meats and fish, including goat or oxtail, or be served trifongo-style.
Almonte moved to Coram from the Dominican Republic as a child and said he lost his brother to violence there about a decade ago. But he knew he wanted to open a restaurant in his hometown. "I could have gone to Patchogue like everyone else, but I wanted to open in Coram," said Almonte, 33, who also works in local real estate and owns three barber shops and has restaurant experience via his extended family, who own several Latin American restaurants in New England. "I want Coram to be what I always thought it could be."
Taino's — which is named for the original Arawak people of the Caribbean — has a menu that pulls from across that region, as well as central and Latin America, and was created and executed by head chef Jose Ortega and sous chef Pablo Manuel Diaz, who worked for decades in the hotels along Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic.
Among Tainos' starters ($7 to $16) is yaroa, a melty Dominican casserole that can be made with plantains or potatoes; shrimp ceviche; empanadas and quesadillas; and a smaller version of mofongo called baby fongo. The Dominican stew asopado is one of Taino's five soups ($9 to $17), and during Sunday brunch the kitchen also makes a pot of the meat-loaded stew sancocho.
Taino's filling sandwiches ($10 to $17) include a version wedged between pieces of fried plantain (sanduche de platano) plus a Colombian-style hot dog topped with mozzarella, crushed plantain chips, coleslaw and "pink sauce." Dozens of meat- and fish-based entrees ($12 to $27) include churrasco-style steak, oxtail stew and lobster tails served fra diavolo-style.
The 85 seats at Taino's are spread between tables, a U-shaped bar (the cocktail menu is thick with mojitos, margaritas, and Latin-inflected martinis, plus beers and Champagne) and an adjacent lounge, where DJs and live musicians play, especially on weekends.
While Taino's opens daily at noon for lunch and dinner, the kitchen stays open late several nights of the week; a full menu is served until 2 a.m. on Thursdays and 4 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Sunday brunch is a $25 prix fixe that includes two courses and five mimosas.
Taino's Cafe & Lounge, 24 Middle Country Rd., Coram; 631-846-1649.