NYCReview

Contento is a restaurant built for everyone. That’s evident from the touchless sinks and grab bars in the bathroom, the lowered bar built in mind for wheelchair accessibility, and the wide aisles between tables. Social sustainability is built into the ethos of this place, with particular attention being paid to the disability community in the neighborhood.

Considering how few operations like this exist, we don’t want to overstate how important these elements are — but you should know that the food and thoughtful service at this East Harlem restaurant deserve to be celebrated just as much as their commitment to accessibility. The Peruvian-leaning menu is full of standouts (like a tart ceviche and a hefty burger cradling raclette), and the whole dining room — both staff and diners — feels connected in a way most championship-winning sports teams do.

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During your meal here, chances are, lots of people will check in on you. A somm could stop by to highlight a few reds from the Willamette Valley, or a maybe bartender will point you in the direction of small-batch amari to enjoy at the end of the night. Choose wisely from the menu, and the head chef might even run a jenga tower of pork katsu to your table.

When it comes to ordering, try as many plates from the “Large” section as you can. The aforementioned pork katsu comes lightly dusted with salt (as all fried things should be) and is accompanied by yuzu aioli and a tangy daikon slaw that helps brighten the whole dish up with a pang of citrus. Short ribs arrive covered in a rich peanut sauce (over either udon noodles or rice), and they’re worth seeking out when you want a stew-adjacent entree. With the exception of the tangy ceviche and creamy salmon tiradito (start your meal with both of these), the more-substantial dishes hit much higher highs than any of the smaller plates like the botanas and pizzetas.

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Contento is a place where you’ll always leave with what we call The Feel Good Factor™. The accessibility certainly contributes to this, but you’ll notice that everybody around you will be feeling this way about their meal as well. If what we’re describing sounds like a cheesy sitcom season finale, know that there’s real substance to back up the atmosphere. This is a restaurant (for everybody) to be excited about.

Food Rundown

Ceviche Classico

This ceviche with sweet potato, corn, onion, and whitefish comes swimming in a TAH (tart as heck) leche de tigre. We always drink the citrusy marinade, and we suggest you do the same.

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Salmon Tiradito

Another great starter, think of this as the flashier cousin to the ceviche. The salmon still comes drowning in leche de tigre, but the marinade is a bit thicker due to the avocado- and aji-amarillo base. Dip the plantain chips, and dream about making tiradito at your next dinner party.

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Verde Pizzetta

This flatbread comes topped with pork belly, tomatillo sauce, and Oaxacan cheese. It’s basically a big doughy pizza, and we suggest you skip this unless you’re coming with a large group. Don’t let this dish prevent you from trying some of the bigger items.

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Contento Burger

The first thing you’ll notice about this burger is the absolute comforter of raclette cheese that’s draped across the patty. This obviously makes the burger pretty rich, but there are caramelized onions and green pepper aioli to help balance things out with their acidity. Order one of these for the table, and split it — or grab a seat at the bar, and take this thing down by yourself.

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Pork Katsu

Crispy katsu that comes stacked like a Jenga tower. Swipe the breaded pork through the yuzu aioli and, as you chew, think about other foods that could work swapped in for Jenga’s wooden blocks (mozz sticks? shortbread cookies? churros?).

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Short Ribs

You may either see this dish with udon noodles or rice, but what doesn’t change is the spicy, peanutty sauce that covers the tender short rib meat. If you frequently eat scoops of peanut butter as a snack (we support this), you should order this rich and stew-y entree.

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