Happy Ending Latin Fusion
14333 Beach Blvd, Ste 22
Jacksonville, FL 32250
Once upon a time, in a Beach Blvd shopping center not so far away, a new restaurant, bar, and hookah lounge descended upon the land of Duval with the promise of Colombian/Peruvian fusion delicacies presented in a laid back, sports bar type atmosphere. Would our lovers of food be rewarded for their intrepidness or would disaster befall and leave them. . .unfulfilled and gastronomically frustrated?
We happened upon Happy Ending Latin Fusion somewhat by accident. We
were shopping nearby and happened to see a two man crew hanging a shiny new sign for a restaurant. We took a closer look and saw the interestingly named restaurant. We looked at the sign, tilted our head in the same way your dog does when you give them a command they don’t quite understand, looked at each other, chuckled a little at the name, shrugged, and decided to check it out.
At the time of this writing, Happy Ending Latin Fusion has only been for about a month. According to the owner, they haven’t done a lot of advertising to give the kitchen time to train and learn the menu. When we arrived, there was only one other family waiting on an order.
The restaurant is tiny. There is a bar up front capable of seating five or six people. There were six or so tables in the dining room. It was tastefully decorated with dark wood colors. I liked the tin roof style wainscoting adorning the walls. Happy Ending definitely went for a sports bar feel with multiple televisions spread out among the space playing football and futbol.
Looking through the menu, we did see some traditional Columbian and Peruvian dishes. Empanadas, Peruvian roasted chicken (cooked rotisserie-style), even a traditional Lomo Saltado (think Peruvian beef stir fry with French fries). The menu is a decent size with about nine or so items each of apps and entrées.
We decided to start with the Happy Belly and Arepa appetizer. It’s a simple appetizer of deep fried pork belly and arepas (corn cake) served with a side of
Peruvian sauce. The fried pork belly was served as a ring of pork belly goodness, a bloomin’ pork belly, if you will. They were fun to eat, digging in there and tearing off pieces. There was a perfect amount of meat to fat ratio on each piece. It came out hot and had a good chew to it. The arepas were warm and crispy. On their own, they didn’t have much flavor, but get a composed bite of the arepa, topped with a piece of pork belly and sauce and it was delightful little dish. The Peruvian sauce sort of reminded me of a better tasting Zaxby’s Zax dipping sauce. It was a little sweet, a little tangy, and a perfect complement to the pork belly.
The entrées are not for the faint of heart. The portion sizes are massive. Come hungry or be prepared to share. There is a small share plate charge if you decide to do the latter. Our two entrées easily could have fed four or five people.
For my entrée I decided on the Bandeja Paisa. It is a Columbian platter with steak, sausage, pork belly, rice, beans, sweet plantains, avocado, an arepa, and a fried egg. Overall, it was a bit hit-and-miss. Some things were great, some were not so great. The steak was dry and overcooked. It was a chore to cut and chew. I know it can be easy to overcook smaller, steak-tip size cuts of beef, but this was a mood killer. On the plus side, the sausage was good. It was also just a touch overcooked, but there was a great snap to the skin when eating it, and had a good flavor. The pork belly was identical to the appetizer, so no disappointment there. The rice was fragrant and fluffy. The beans were hearty. The avocado was simply a couple slices, with nothing done to it. The plantains were a nice sweet diversion to all the protein on the plate. This plate lacked and was begging for some kind of sauce to tie it all together. A nice fried egg with a runny yolk would have done the trick. Unfortunately, the fried egg was fried hard and the yolk was cooked all the way through. I was looking forward to breaking through the egg and letting the luxurious
yolk run all through the platter. It would have made the overcooked steak much more palatable if I was able to dip it in some egg yolk for moisture.
My wife’s entrée was a completely different story. It was an off menu special of braised ox tail topped with a Peruvian red wine sauce, a side of rice and potatoes, and a salad. There were four large pieces of ox tail. They were cooked perfectly, meat yearning to be pulled off the bone. The red wine sauce was hearty, with the right amount of acidity to cut against the richness of the ox tail. Combining a bite of ox tail with a bite of rice or potato is the very definition of sensual comfort food. I hope this dish becomes a regular weekend special.
At the end of the meal, the owner brought out a basket of fried plantains
stuffed with Queso Fresco; on the house. We were appreciative of the amuse bouche at the end of the meal. The sweet plantains played nicely against the slight saltiness of the queso fresco.
Like with any good romance, there were highs and there were lows. There were moments of love unrequited and moments of consummated anticipation. Overall, the meal was OK. I was disappointed in the Bandeja Paisa, but more than pleased with the wonderful ox tail and the pork belly. It’s a new restaurant. And with new restaurants come some growing pains. Was it a Happy Ending? I would say, not exactly, but there will be another chapter before this story is complete. I’ll probably come back for a second try, skip the Bandeja Paisa and try some other menu items.