New York / February 6, 2010 / dinner
Winederlust Rating (details below): 7.4 out of 10 / Winederlust Worthy: Yes
After an evening watching dance at the Joyce Theater in NYC’s Chelsea neighborhood, Jay and I invited our Spanish (and paella-expert) friends Pablo and Elena to dinner at the only NYC restaurant to specialize in paella: the Socarrat Paella Bar. We’d only been once before, when we squeezed into the long, raised communal table that consumed most of the restaurant with tons of other paella aficionados, and had fallen in love with the deceptively simple dish of rice cooked with all sorts of delicious ingredients (chicken, shrimp, rabbit, veggies, etc., etc.).
This time around, Socarrat had expanded with a “bar de vinos” next door — a smart move considering the place is tiny and there’s always a wait since they don’t take reservations. We ordered some wine (a 2006 Montevannos Crianza Tempranillo from Ribera del Duero and a 2006 El Somo Tempranillo from Rioja for me and Jay and a 2006 Albarino do Ribeiro from Galicia for the Spaniards) and a few tapas (patatas bravas, sardines) while we waited an hour for seats to open up next door.
Paella originates from the Spanish region of Valencia, where Pablo and Elena grew up, and where they told us most traditional paella uses chicken or seafood (they said rabbit is more of the “country paella”). So we ordered two paellas to share: the Paella Valenciana ($22/person), with chunks of rabbit and pork rib, snails, scallions, sugar snow peas and asparagus, and the Arroz Negro ($22/person), with fish, squid ink, shrimp, squid and scallops atop an untraditional squid ink black paella.
Most of us preferred the Paella Valenciana, which had a more robust, richer flavor; the Arroz Negro was a little bland this time around.
The restaurant is named after the crunchy, slightly caramelized rice that sticks to the bottom of the paella pan. Your server comes back at the end to scrap off the socarrat for everyone to enjoy — and it truly is the best part, crispy with a yummy nutty flavor.
Though we didn’t think the food at Socarrat was as good as the first time we visited, it’s still a fun place to go for some quasi-authentic, filling Spanish nibbles while catching up with friends on a chilly winter’s night.
– by Liz Humphreys, Winederlust Eater in Chief
Winederlust Rating Details (out of 10):
Food: 6.5 (preparation, presentation & taste)
Wine: 8.0 (selection, recommendations, pairings & taste)
Service: 7.0 (helpfulness, attentiveness, knowledge & pacing)
Place: 8.0 (location, view, decor & vibe)
Price Range: $$ (Moderate)
Socarrat Paella Bar / 259 West 19th St., New York [map]
Direct Line: (212) 462-1000
Monday-Sunday 12-3pm, Sunday-Thursday 5pm-11pm and
Friday-Saturday 5pm-11:30pm. No reservations.