Location: 53 West 19th Street (btw 5th & 6th Ave)
Price: $7-$19 per dish
I feel like Spanish tapas is one of those food where I just don’t really know what to expect. In NYC where every Spanish tapas restaurant is trying to do something different or special with each of their little dishes, there isn’t much consistency…maybe the only consistent thing is the paella. So without much choice or say about a dinner spot, I ended up at Boqueria over on 19th street. First off, what is it about 19th street, I mean all the Tapas/Spanish spots? There is Sala 19 right next door, you got Pipa a block down & you have Socarrat a couple of blocks down the other direction…I guess no reason. I’ve only been to Sala 19 before which, was reasonably solid place & Boqueria reminded me or a smaller, more lit, quieter, & slightly cheaper version of Sala 19. Bonus was that despite the restaurant being very crowded, we got a large 4 person round table right away & our servers were quite attentive & kind. Everything started off decently well and as we started eating I thought the small dishes at Boqueria were excellent.
The patatas bravas, a pseudo Spanish hash browns drizzled with a delicious sauce was great as well as the croquetas cremosa, a cream puff with mushrooms and a flavorful cream inside. The two items off the special menu which we got (pictured below) had well cooked meat and very fresh ingredients which we were all impressed by.
At the beginning of the meal we put in a order for Paella de Mariscos and were were going to top off our stomachs with this large dish made perfectly for 4 people. Unfortunately we were sorely disappointed with this dish b/c the rice didn’t seem well cooked and the dish wasn’t piping hot. The flavor wasn’t quite there either considering all the seafood & spices they had in there.
The redeeming factor was that the waitress had told us they were trying out a new recipe for this paella dish and it was in it “experimental” stage & so when we expressed our thoughts on their flavorless “experimental” paella, they gave us ½ off the price of the paella. I’ll take that considering we still killed off the entire dish of the paella to fill us up.
I think this is really a great place to go for wine or sangria and get a couple of tapas dishes with a friend or with a group to share. The flatiron location on 19th makes this spot not TOO crowded & the interior environment is great for conversation…and if your conversation gets boring you can always stare at the array of cured meats hanging on the walls to keep you entertained.
Location: 113 Ludlow St. 2nd flr.
Ever since I went to a Filipino house party back last summer in Chicago I’d been looking for a good place for some Filipino noodles & eggrolls. Those handmade dishes had a distinct flavor to them that hit a different note than other asian dishes I’ve tried. I’ve never seen a Filipino restaurant in the city to except for the crappy one down the street from me so, when my coworker suggested Kuma Inn for good Filipino food I was psyched. First of all, the restaurant is pretty tricky to find if you’re not paying attention since it’s on the second floor with no signs on the dark block of Ludlow st. in LES. The upstairs dining area was quite decent with ample seating and nice intimate lights. Much to my surprise after glancing at the menu, this restaurant was more of a pan-asian food with tapas style dishes. *sigh*arg…I need my NOODLES & EGGROLLS!!
Despite my utter disappointment, I had to admit they had great selection of small plates (asian tapas) and apparently much of the dishes are inspired by Chef’s parent’s Filipino cooking. So, pseudo-Filipino food. We ended up getting the tiger shrimp, dorado fish, coconut rice, tuna tartar, & my personal favorites the Chinese sausage & fried pork belly. I would definitely go back to this place for my favorite dishes…big fat delicious juicy chunks of PORK BELLY, FRIED …SERIOUSLY?! Wow. Extra bonus for Kuma Inn is that they have BYOB with a small corkage fee. Nice. Even after a good meal here, I haven’t forgot that I have to keep on searching for my noodles and eggrolls. Suggestions are welcome.
Location: 33 Avenue B (3rd St, SE corner)
Price: $8 – $12 for small plates, $20-$24 entries
When it comes to group dinners, I immediately think tapas; it’s the best way to interact and share conversation with that person on the other end of the table by requesting and/or sharing a dish. We took several visiting Chicagoans to POCO and even before we arrived at the restaurant the service was great. We had last minute changes with reservations but they gladly accommodated, on a Friday night! The food was solid but there were only a couple dishes that really stood out, which were the Lobster Mac & Cheese and Seafood Paella (the Valencia); we had to get an extra order of both. Also, if a slightly sweeter red sangria is your thing, a pitcher for $35 is well worth it.
Price: $22 (includes unlimited mimosa/bloody mary/sangria and coffee/tea)
Again, they did not disappoint when it came to service. It was prime time for Sunday brunch but the staff stayed calm and relaxed and we were seated in about 10 minutes. Even when a crowd started to wait outside for a table, servers still went around asking if brunchers wanted a refill on their cocktails and coffees. I loved it that we never felt rushed to finish our meals. Brunch at Poco is pretty damn good. Get it: the Lobster Benedict (see a pattern here?). The lobster is plentiful and it’s placed on an arepa rather than an english muffin or biscuit. All brunch dishes come with a side of salad and potatoes. The BEST part of brunch though (at least this time of year), is that they start you off with mini spiced muffins and bread that’s made in-house. They are GLORIOUS.