Chef: Marc Vidal
Cuisine: Spanish, Tapas
Neighborhood: SoHo and Flatiron
Price: most tapas $10-15
Address: 171 Spring Street and 53 West 19th Street NY, NY
Telephone: 212.343.4255 (Soho) and 212.255.4160 (Flatiron)
I love going to tapas places. The whole concept of sharing small plates is great — you get to taste many dishes and presumably you don’t overeat because of the small portions. Well, presumably. I actually didn’t know the history of them until recently. Apparently the idea originated over 100 years ago in Andalucia. The bartenders at local joints used to put a slice of bread on top of the diners’ glasses of sherry to prevent the pesky fruit flies from getting into the drink. It also became popular to serve bread, cheese, and small snacks with the sherry to keep the customers entertained and drinking longer. And the bread slice, or lid, (tapar means “to put a lid on” in Spanish) gave rise to the cuisine we now popularly know as Tapas. But enough about history.
Boqueria serves up traditional Spanish tapas in its two NYC locations: the original in Flatiron and its sister in Soho. The latter is inconspicuously nestled in between cute boutiques on a charming cobblestone street. But once you get inside, you are in the midst of the hustle and bustle. The space is narrow, so the servers have to skillfully weave between that counters, bar, tables, and patrons awaiting to be called up. The kitchen is open, so you can hear, see and smell everything that is on the menu for the day. The restaurant is simply but elegantly decorated, all the tables are bar stool height to evoke the feeling of eating at the bar. They are quite close together, which is also reminiscent of a casual bar setting. A blackboard above the kitchen spells out the drinks and wines by the glass. And the menu does not disappoint. There are the expected veteran dishes like patatas bravas and gambas al ajillo, choices of cheeses and cured meats, and creative specials devised from seasonal ingredients. We tried a bit of everything, including a nice bottle of Spanish red (from a very reasonably priced menu), the name of which I unfortunately failed to write down.
Tomates y Sandia – Heirloom tomatoes, watermelon, sheep’s milk cheese, basil, Pedro Ximénez reduction, olive oil
I think watermelon salads have been the trendy appetizer this summer, so I decided to try it here as well. I think I prefer watermelon on its own on a hot summer day, but I do admit that the combination of bursting watermelon, soft cheese and tomatoes does work.
Verduras con Queso y Miel – Market Squash, Zucchini, Goat Cheese, Cherry Tomatoes, Honey, Marcona Almonds
I didn’t think to combine roasted vegetables with goat cheese, but it’s definitely a worthwhile combination. And the touch of honey added a nice hint of sweetness without being overpowering.
Coca de Higos y Jamón – Grilled flatbread, figs, goat cheese, watercress, serrano ham
Albóndigas – Lamb meatballs in tomato sauce, sheep’s milk cheese
We’ve been trying a lot of meatballs lately, and cooking some as well (a post coming soon!). Lamb sometimes is gamey, but I loved these meatballs and especially of the lamb with the soft sheep’s cheese.
Patatas Bravas – Crispy potatoes, “salsa brava”, roasted garlic allioli
Was not a standout fish by any means, but very solid rendition of this popular potato dish