In Preparation for Espana…Tapas!

Ahh tapas–how I loff them. In preparation for our upcoming (well in a few months) trip to Espana, I thought I’d share a few dishes from 2 Spanish restaurants I visited in the past few months.

I must say though I think my favorite leans to Socarrat Chelsea in NYC–and that has more to do with, the rustic and intimate ambiance of the restaurant vs. purely the food itself. Julian Serrano, although delicious and a lovely ambiance, is a bit more formal and colder than the warm dark and intimate Socarrat.

Definitely looking forward to the “real thing” in a few months!

JULIAN SERRANO (ARIA Hotel, Las Vegas, NV)

Lobster Gazpacho (chilled spanish tomato soup | lobster meat | cherries) – Fresh, vibrant combination of sweet, tart, green flavors. Could not taste the lobster very well however.

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Kale Salad (rainbow baby carrots | heirloom baby tomatoes | red beet gelée | red beet vinaigrette) – The ingredients sound lovely, and indeed the salad was very brightly flavored, but perhaps a bit too overly dressed and acidic. The red beets added a pleasant sweetness, but I think the rainbow carrots could have been slightly blanched (basically be a little softer so that it could have absorbed the dressing and counter-balanced the acidity.)

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Octopus (potatoes | spanish paprika) – This dish was a highlight! The octopus was cooked perfectly –so tender and delicate (and from experience cooking it ourselves, we’ve tasted when cooked not so perfectly–chewy rubber). They shining ingredient though was actually the Spanish Paprika–richly smoky and earthy–which is a unique contrast to seafood which is typically prepared light and fresh.

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Black Rice (fresh calamari | lobster meat | sofrito | squid ink) – Squid ink automatically imparts such a buttery seafoodie rich complexity –the opposite of sharp bright flavors, it is a soothing seductively of-the-sea flavor. Although, compared to Socarrat’s arroz negro…I must say the Socarrat one wins (though to be fair, Socarrat is a paella preparation whereas this was more of a tapas sized).

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Spanish Iberico sliders (prime beef | iberian pork | caramelized onions) – Juicy beef patty on a buttery perfectly toasted bun, with a slice of iberico (providing a subtle salty richness) and sweetness from the caramelized onion.

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SOCARRAT PAELLA BAR (Chelsea, NYC, NY)

Starting with of course a bottle of delicious vino…

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 Patatas Bravas (fried potatoes, aioli & guindilla (Spanish chile) tomato sauce) – You typically might think…”oh big deal-fried potatoes”–but no. These potatoes will elevate your respect for the humble brown root veggie and regard it with a new gleam in your eye. Of course fried potatoes are not created equal–often times they are over cooked resulting in a dense chewy and uninspired cardboard tasting thing. But here, my oh my, the cube/triangular diced potatoes have a crisp light skin then within, a buttery sweet fluffy innard—pair this with the rich garlic (as in I loff garlic and your dinner buddies better too) and spicy tomato sauce–another simple yet amazing blend of flavors.

Gambas al Ajillo (shrimp in garlic olive oil & guindilla pepper) -You know when you have a perfectly cooked and fresh shrimp when you bite into it, and it literally feels like it pops in your mouth–your teeth puncturing the outer layer revealing the juicy tender meat within–and the flavor of pure seafoodie freshness and overwhelming sweetness. Add a touch of spice from the guindilla and garlic=heaven.

Pan con Tomate (fresh tomato spread toast with garlic and olive oil) – Such a simple combination of ingredients but so deliciously tasty! The freshness from the tomato–sweet and slightly acidic, with the bright zesty pop from the vigorously rubbed garlic on the roasty-toasted bread, and of course the richness of good straight-up olive oil.

Iberico Charcuteria (Iberico cured ham) – Soft velvety ribbons of iberico that can be elegantly piled on the Pan con Tomate–or just by itself 🙂

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Arroz Negro (shrimp, calamari, fish, scallops, squid ink topped with garlic aioli)  – Each seafood morsel was cooked perfectly, not one of them overcooked (which could be hard if not timed right) and so fresh, with bright sweet green peas in a richly flavored squid ink rice (also perfectly cooked–some pieces at the bottom crisply roasted). I loved adding a dollop of the garlicky aioli to my portion(s) 🙂

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Cochinillo Asado (roasted suckling pig, spinach and port sauce reduction)  – Ahh dearest little piggie–how I appreciate you and thank you for giving your life. I cherish and honor your sacrifice and thus thoroughly enjoyed the flavors of this dish.  Socarrat chefs did the piggie justice–roasting the meat to the perfect duality of crisp skin and meltingly tender meat underneath, cut through with the port sauce reduction.  I had this lovely tapas meal with Vegans…and they partook in this dish…that is how good it was 🙂

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Dessert (Freshly hot sugar coated spheres (sounds better than “balls”)– Light and airy and perfectly dippable in the accompanying rich dark chocolate   

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