Monday, June 1, 2009
Socarrat - Even Better at the Last Bite
Socarrat Paella Bar - 259 West 19th Street, New York NY 10011
1 Train to 18th Street
My first post this week is all about a paella bar in Chelsea—Socarrat. By definition (according to the web site), Socarrat refers to the “sensuous crust that forms on the bottom of the paella pan when the liquid is rendered and the rice reaches its peak of succulence.” Because this sounds like the opposite of really bad, I went to check it out.
We got to Socarrat at 8 pm on a Saturday, expecting a wait. We were right, as we were told to come back in an hour—which was not a problem considering the number of bars in the area (shout out to Flight 151). Anyway, we came back within the hour and were told we’d be seated in just a few. The super-friendly man at the door—I suspect he was the manager?—asked us which paella we were interested in having for dinner so the kitchen could get to work (the paella feeds at least 2, and you're charged per person).We waited another 5 minutes and then were seated.
Now, Socarrat is definitely “intimate.” It’s a charmingly narrow space, with one long table that accommodates probably something like 20 people at a time (hence the wait). Everything about the restaurant screams charm and vintage, with a hint of romance that isn’t so glaring due to the seating situation. I’d say you can definitely bring a date here, but don't expect your conversation to go unheard by those around you.
Once seated, we were immediately given glasses of water and the drink/tapas menu by our friendly waitress. After that, the food came out pretty quickly.
Ensalada de Remolacha: The presentation of this dish is beautiful and colorful, and it tastes just as awesome. As an avid beet-eater, I can say that this is one of the best beet salads I have come across. The combination of the sweet beets and the creamy manchego was perfect and really exceeded my expectations. I know that the tapas are supposed to pale in comparison to the paella, but A+!
Patatas Bravas: Fantastico. Though I would have liked the small cuts of potato to have been a bit crispier, they were still done really well, and topped with just the right amount of both garlic aioli and a flavorful tomato sauce. The potatoes were spiced perfectly and were really filling. But of course, we saved room for the paella.
Paella Socarrat: Quite the combination—chicken, shrimp, cuttle fish, green beans, mussles, and clams, all atop a bed of crackling golden rice. The dish was 2x the size of my face, which apparently posed no problem for me or my dining partner. We split the paella right down the middle and kept helping ourselves to serious spoonfuls. As we grew closer to finishing up our dish, a waiter spotted us and made sure to scrape up the best parts of the paella that were stuck to the dish—the socarrat! He split that remainder in half and dropped some onto each plate.
I think the paella bar is a great concept and really well executed by the staff (managerial, wait, and kitchen) at Socarrat. The menu isn’t overwhelming, but definitely offers a great variety and I’m pretty sure I’ll be heading back there soon to try out some of the other tapas and of course the other paella offerings.