In “soft-opening” mode since Wednesday, Macondo is a new Lower East Side restaurant (157 East Houston) that aims to “elevate ‘comida de la calle’ (Latin street food) to the gourmet level.” Small plates span the Spanish-speaking world, with cocas from Barcelona, empanadas from Colombia, piragüas from the Caribbean, churros con chocolate from Spain, tacos from Mexico, and arepas from Venezuela.

The place was well packed by 8 p.m. last night, and if food critics think places like Commerce and Bar Milano are too loud, they’re going to have a field day with the raucous din at Macondo, where the open kitchen, brick walls and tables of six make sentences like, “They shouldn’t cook so many peppers in an open kitchen - my eyes are burning!” often inaudible.

These plates are indeed small, and one could spend a bundle trying to sate a healthy appetite, but for $5 the amazing Yuca Fries are an addictive and filling option. Also a must-have is the Bacalao Arepa with cod fish, tomato, peppers and fried egg. It’s no bargain at $12, but so tasty you’ll be seriously tempted to order another. The frozen Avocado Mezcal cocktail is a creamy/salty winner, and we’ll have to go back to try the Escanciar Sidra, a hard cider that originated in Spain and is supposedly poured from a height of four feet into your glass to create “a brief, Champagne-like effervescence.”