It’s hard to get a handle on Lena. A pistachio green, straight-from-South Beach awning ushers customers into a sleek, mostly wood-and-glass interior. There’s a similarly disconnected feel to the menu. When the dishes stay truest to their Latin roots, they’re delightful; when they stray too far afield, they don’t quite work. For starters, the excellent house guacamole ($9) is pure lush avocado, with lime and cilantro adding some nice sparkle. The ceviche trio ($9) is cute—three small bowls each hold a different type of citrus-cured seafood (shrimp, scallops and fish), all light and tender with pops of fire from diced peppers. Other appetizers suffer from too many ingredients; peanut sauce with a fried potato cake stuffed with cheese adds up to one hefty small plate.
Of the mains, we recommend the imaginative taco plates featuring pan-seared fish ($14), crunchy lettuce and a spicy escabeche salsa that subs in marinated carrots for tomatoes. You can also get pulled pork or beef brisket tacos at $12 a plate; omit the rice to focus on the flavorful meat. Skip the more expensive dishes. They’re not bad, just overly complicated and can tend to feel a little heavy.
The specialty cocktails, including a range of margaritas and mojitos, are where Lena busts out and tangos. The sangria, in blackberry and peach versions, is also terrific. On the dessert front, we loved the coconut-cream-filled puffs served with mango chutney, strawberry sorbet and a wonderful tangy kiwi sauce on the side ($8).