Tag Archives: tapas

Barraca: Tapas That Was Okay…

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The other night we went to dinner with my fiancé’s friends – and were supposed to goto Rubirosa, but they couldn’t accommodate us. We choose to get some tapas, and coming down from my high of Saturday Nights Toro Trip, I was excited to crush some small plates. They chose Barraca, which is owned by the Quimeria Group – also own Macondo and Rayuela. So I did what any normal food obsessed person would do, and checked around a few websites to see how the food. Saw a bunch of 4s out of 5, and a 21 on Zagat.  So I was looking forward to giving it a shot, and embarrass Nicole while I eat like a beast in front of her friends.

Once we got on to Greenwich, I knew exactly what place it was. Feel like I passed a couple hundred times, usually going to and from the Meatpacking District. Place has some nice curb appeal, decorated nicely with some plants in the windows. Once you walk in, you see the bar area which was pretty busy – large glass containers filled with their multiple types of sangria concoctions. While in the bar area we were smelling the dishes as they were coming out of the kitchen – in my head I took mental note of what items I should order.

Once we sat, the waiter gave us both their regular menu and Restaurant Week menu. Knowing we would like to do multiple dishes, we decided to go with the regular menu. The girls ordered a pitcher of sangria, and the guys ordered Mahou because Barraca ran out of Estrella. This was actually a nice change, I haven’t had Mahou since my Madrid trip two years ago and always choose Estrella when I see it.

We then began the ordering, and I tried to mask my excitement when everyone ask me to order a few things. We held onto the menus to order again after the first round of items came. The excitement started to drift away once I tasted the food, it wasn’t bad – but it wasn’t great. It was, ‘okay’ at best. Thinking it was just me, I asked Nicole and she described it as ‘just okay’ as well. The best part I would say was the Idiazabal cheese – which says a lot considering I am not a big cheese person.

Below is some of the items we ordered:

The Good

  • Charcuterie Board: We chose Jamon Serrano, Manchego, and Idiazabal. Everything was good, with the smokiness of the Idiazabal making it really standout as my favorite.
  • Suquet: grilled monkfish, clams, mussels, artichokes, shrimp, almond ‘picada’. This was good, went pretty fast since there was five of us. The fish was good, and enjoyed the broth.

The Okay

  • Patatas Bravas: Crispy home fries spicy tomato sauce, and aioli. Pretty good, definitely not as great as the Patatas Bravas at Toro.
  • Croquetas De Jamon: Croquettes with Seranno ham. Its pretty much impossible to mess up a croquette, its potato and fried. Was good, definitely nothing special.
  • Datiles con Bacon: dates wrapped in bacon with blue cheese.
  • Carne a La Brasa: Skirt Steak, salsa verde, fingerling potatoes, roasted shallot, and crispy kale. Was cooked nice and red on the inside, wish I would have ordered this solely for myself.

The Disappointing

  • Calamar a la Plancha: Grilled squid, and possibly one of the worst octopus dishes I have ever had. The presentation looked great, long tentacles with peppers. One bite into it, kind of wish I didn’t. Coming from the Octopus Plancha the other night at Toro, Barraca’s version was extremely disappointing. The seasoning was totally off, some pieces with Mediterranean spices but kind of just tasted like someone threw Frank’s Red Hot Sauce on it.
  • Canelon de Pato: tube pasta filled with duck, duck liver, orange, and manchego cheese. This was pretty bad as well, kind of felt like these were pre-stuffed and sat in a fridge for a while until some unlucky prick ordered it. I would stay away if you end up going to Barraca.

Toro NYC: Tapas, Octopus, Paella, and Churros

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I knew from the beginning, it would be extremely hard to beat last years Valentines Day dinner at Carbone. But, I had a good feeling Toro might be able to do it – or at least get close. Toro definitely impressed me, and I already want to go back.

Last summer we went to Boston for a music festival called Boston Calling. This was held on Memorial Day weekend and included bands such as Bastille, The Neighbourhood, Modest Mouse, Death Cab for Cutie, Jack Johnson and Brand New. Before going I spoke to some friends for recommendations – everyone came back mentioning Toro. While eating brunch the next morning at The Beehive (Great Place to check out) the bartender also said “Do not leave Boston until you goto Toro.” So we decided to call up, book a reservation and were told that is not possible. So we decided, let’s go for brunch. While there, we ordered up a storm. We started with the olives, foie gras, patatas bravas, escalivada catalana, and finished the apps up with an order of jamon serrano. We then moved to some egg dishes (since it was around 11:00) and moved to the creme de la creme, duck prosciutto and an order of Asada de Huesos aka Bone Marrow with Oxtail. As you can see from my reviews on Minetta Tavern and Charlie Bird, I hold the marrow from Toro in high regard.

When we got back to Manhattan we all said we need to make it a point to goto Toro over in Chelsea. With everyone’s busy schedules, it seemed difficult to get everyone together to book a reservation. So, I said fuck it – Nicole and I are going for Valentine’s Day. Since the day I made the reservation, I kept thinking about the absurd amount of dishes I would be ordering. Removing the romantic aspects of the day and replacing them with a gluttonous sloppy feast. As we were running around doing errands in the neighborhood, I made us stop at Alidoro to get a sandwich early – and avoid ruining my appetite.

We arrived for our reservation, and once we walked in through the maze of wind-blocking tunnels, I was amazed by the size and decor of the restaurant. There we definitely a nice amount of aspects from their Boston location, such as exposed brick, distressed wood, and open ceilings showing the HVAC system. But, they definitely threw a New York/Meat Packing vibe into the mix, which was beautiful. We spoke with the hostess, which didn’t catch her name, but she was extremely nice and she walked us over to our table. Once we sat down, and looking around, I heard the great soundtrack – some songs of Nas’ Illmatic, some Tribe Called Quest – once again, similar to Charlie Bird, it was awesome to hear some hip-hop with amazing food.

The waiter came over, and we ordered our drinks. Nicole mentioned she was looking for something similar to a Pinot Noir, and he recommended two different ones. Initially she ordered the Bodegas Ponce ‘Pino’ Bobal, which she really enjoyed. After she wet with the Cvne Real, which was a little more Old World and earthy – another winner. I went with the Estrella (couple of Estrella) followed by a Smuttynose ‘Brown Dog Ale’ with dessert.

After the first round of drinks came, we placed our order. I gave the waiter a disclaimer to stop me if ordered to much – but then disregarded it and decided to surpass his ‘rule of thumb’ of 6 plates per two people. Here is our order:

  • Pan Con Tomate: Toasted bread with tomato, garlic, Spanish olive oil and sea salt. This dish was so basic, but the pureness of it brought me back to Barcelona. I highly recommend this as a great way to start, and won’t fill you up to much for the other items on the menu.
  • Tuna Tartare: The most amazing thing about this is the way it is listed on the menu “tuna tartare with stuff that we really like“. I mean, come on – how can you not order that? The tuna is served in a anchovies tin – and was delicious. I wanted to order the Tuna Belly initially, and might go with that next time, but the tartare was good.
  • Jamon de Pato: which is aged duck prosciutto, which was great. Nice mix of fat/meat, and was really nice. Tasted even better when I threw it on my Pan con Tomate ***Make that happen***.
  • ColesBrussels sprouts with olive oil and maldon salt. Probably some of the best brussels I had in a long time.
  • Costilla de Carne: Braised beef rib with pigeon peas, farro, and persimmons. This was one of those dishes you will be scraping the dish with your fork, picking up every last molecule of the items. The ribs were nicely cooked, and went extremely well with the farro and peas. I would suggest this if you want some red-meat, but don’t want to fill up on ordering the Chuleta de Buey – which is the 40 Day Dry Aged Rib-eye. **Order this dish**
  • PulpoGalician octopus with potatoes and charred onions. This was one of the best pieces of octopus I have ever tasted. Additionally, I would like to see the size of the octopus this tentacle was cut off – as I immediately yelled in my head, in Liam Neeson’s voice, “Unleash the Kraken!” If I were to take the time to straighten out the tentacle and measure it, I would say it would be 12 inches, thats what she said. Instead, we began to cut this into chunks and devour the Galician Greatness. At first taste I got a bit of a sweet tangy taste, but once I bit threw the charred outside and into the tender inside, I picked up a smokey taste – possible paprika. The potatoes were delicious, kind of looked like mini caramelized scallops and went nicely with the onions and tentacle. Hard to compare with the pulpo from Charlie Bird Noodle Pudding, Rubirosa, or Peasant – since those are more Italian style. This octopus is extremely unique, and I would definitely say this is some premium pulpo,  I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS DISH ****
  • Paella Langostino: Lobster and black summer truffle paella. This was the final item of our order, and since we ordered a lot, and I had full intentions of ordering dessert, I decided to go with the half order. This was a great choice, the pan that comes out is a great size for two people who just ate a ton of tapas. The paella was moist, and full of flavor. I highly recommend ordering the half size, which at $45 isn’t too bad considering it is a large portion with lobster and black truffle.
  • Dessert: The semifreddo was good, however the CHURROS WERE AMAZING. These were by far the best churros I have ever had – better than Barcelona, Madrid, and anywhere in Manhattan. They had the perfect blend of cinnamon-sugar, kind of like taking the bottom of the cereal bag of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. It came with a chocolate dipping sauce, which is not even needed. Trust me, Order these Churros.

Bacaro: Think Peasant in an Italian Dungeon

imageWe went to Peasant a few weeks back, after wanting to go for a long time, and we really loved it. We knew we would, I have been tracking the menu changes for the past year – but more on that in my post for Peasant. Before I got engaged I looked into renting out the bottom floor of il Buco and Peasant – and stumbled across Bacaro. People always ask me, how is it living in Chinatown – which I don’t not consider Nolita being Chinatown – especially after walking to Division Street and Canal. This is real Chinatown, but tucked in there is one of my new favorites, which being related to Peasant I should have guessed this would have been the verdict.

First thoughts, from looking at the pictures I thought the downstairs was only for private parties or large groups. Didn’t realize it was pretty much the majority of the restaurant – and after walking past the building with no sign – we made our way down. The basement cellar was really nice, and made you feel like you were back in the Catacombs in Italy. The name, Bacaro, comes from the Venetian spubs which serve small dishes – think Italian Tapas. This place definitely got it right.

I have been wanting to go here as well for a while, but due to the limited menu on their website I would always cancel the reservation since we would be going with people who aren’t as open to trying new foods. This time it was just me and the fiancé (yea that happened) and we were ready to order some food with no people complaining. We started with the Razor Clams (Amazing – breadcrumbs and peppers), Artichoke Special (cheese with a great broth, dip some bread in it) and the Fried Oysters. The first two were amazing, really fresh and done correctly. The Fries Oysters, weren’t my favorite. Instead of being fried and crispy – they were more similar to a fried Oreo or Zeppoli. With all the batter, makes it hard to really taste the oyster. Wasn’t bad, just not my favorite.

Main courses, we split the Pasta in Duck Ragu, and the Garlic Shrimp over Polenta. Both dishes were fucking delicious. I will start with the Duck Ragu, didn’t realize until just now the pasta was whole wheat. It was so good, I would have bet my bonus it was regular pasta. Served up al dente with a chunky red sauce with nice pieces of duck swimming in the bowl. Complete bowl was scraped clean, any remaining bread was used to soak up whatever sauce was left. Next the garlic shrimp, which was amazing as well. Came with six shrimp, cooked perfectly with great seasoning. The polenta was a perfect side dish, was creamy and easy to scoop up the shrimp, sauce, and polenta in each bite. Think at one point I might have licked the plate. We held one menu in case we wanted to order some more, and I definitely could have ordered one more item because everything was great. Decided to go with flour less chocolate cake, surprise – it was great as well.

Bacaro has a nice wine list, saw many names which I saw from Peasant. We went with a carafe of Pinot Nero and I had three Menabrea Ambers (my favorite beer since I came back from Italy a few years back). So for the three appetizers, two mains, drinks, cake and double espresso – total bill 127.38! Great value for such amazing food.

I highly suggest this place and put it on my recommend list. Definitely an awesome first date spot – great atmosphere, great food, great drinks menu – and if you don’t like the girl, you at least have a great meal for relatively cheap.