Caribbean dishes, closer to Central America geographically, are also askew. Mofongo Con Camarones ($16) is supposed to be an Afro-Antillean mash of plantains topped with shrimp creole. There's plenty of shrimp, but not much flavor to the sauce or funk to the mush. Pollo Guisado ($10) ought to be a salty Dominican stew on rice, served with salad. It's close to that, but not quite. That said, anyone selling a 10-buck entrée in Harvard Square that isn't a burger gets applause.
Conga's wine list is mostly Spanish and economical. A pitcher of sangria ($4.75/glass; $19/pitcher) has the right idea — not too sweet, red with some orange and apple slices. It will be terrific at the outdoor tables come summer.
Desserts are a step up, especially the orange panna cotta ($5.95) with creamy molded pudding, only a few more canned mandarins, and real whipped cream. Bread pudding ($5.95) is always good, but I am also captivated by chocolate pizza ($8.50). Milk chocolate, chopped peanuts, a thin glutinous crust — it just works for me on the primal level, and it's certainly not pretending to be anything but what it amazingly is. The flan ($6.95) tastes okay, but is granular at the custard level.
Getting back to that name: there is a pair of student conga drums in the room, and guitars and cymbals on the wall, along with signed posters of Latin pop stars. The background music is salsa, and there is live music on Wednesday nights. The marble floor, left over from an Italian café once in this space, suits the tapas theme. But in Madrid it would be covered with shrimp and peanut shells. Red tablecloths are topped with glass — that would be the Thai owners' influence.
Our server, a student from Central America, was excellent, and described the menu accurately, yet with enthusiasm. Atmosphere is under construction. On our quiet evening, it was not happening. Still, I could easily see this place packed to the rafters with partiers.
Robert Nadeau can be reached at email@example.com.