One of the advantages of staying in NYC on a holiday weekend, especially one after a the most important day for eating) is the ease of securing dinner reservations at restaurants that are not known for accommodating same day / same hour reservation requests. Last Friday, I was trying to make a last-minute dinner reservation and while I had many options, I chose to go to Socarrat – Chelsea (259 W 19 St, between 7th and 8th Avenue, New York, NY 10011). Why? It is always tough to get a reservation at Socarrat at dinner time at short notice on a Friday evening (they started taking reservations very recently, and I have never had the patience to wait indefinitely).
You probably know that Tapas ranks among my top favorites (read About Me). Before I went to Socarrat, I assumed (probably based on some reading about a limited menu there), that the restaurant served only Paella. Imagine my pleasant surprise when I saw a long tapas menu. In my Not (Just) Vegetarian mode, I could have ordered anything from the menu and would have been extremely satisfied. I wanted the paella for sure (why else would I show up at a Paella bar?), and the portions looked large, even if two people were to share it. After much thought and debate, this is what we ordered:
- Chorizo a la Riojana: Spicy chorizo sautéed (in Rioja wine?) with peppers and onions
- Alachofas Fritas: Fried Artichokes
- Ondarre Rioja Reserva 2005
- Arroz Negro: Paella made with squid ink, shrimp, calamari, scallops, and fish
- Chocolate Beignets
Read on to know which of these dishes I loved the best.
- Spicy Chorizo sautéed (in Rioja Wine) with peppers and onions: The chorizo was spicy, and full of flavor, but with no kick that would make you wince or reach instinctively for something sweet or for water. Was it because of the wine (if it was there), the sweet peppers or the onions? I will never know, but this is one dish that I will order again if I go back to Socarrat – Chelsea. The wine that we ordered was perfect for this dish.
- Fried Artichokes: I love artichokes (have rarely tried the fresh ones), and I love most edible things fried. Need I say more about this dish? The artichokes seemed to be baby artichokes that were quartered, dipped in a light batter, fried and salted. The artichoke pieces were crispy outside and soft inside – perfect!!
- Ondarre Rioja Reserva 2005: The original Tempranillo that we wanted was not available at the restaurant anymore. The waiter suggested this one and we loved this wine, although we were having a seafood paella. I like wine and enjoy good wine, but find it hard to distinguish different notes, boquets, finish etc. So, for more information about this wine, see here and here.
- Arroz Negro: Paella made with squid ink, shrimp, calamari, fish, scallops and vegetables. The black rice contrasted nicely with the white pieces of fish, scallops, and shrimp, and the red peppers and green (lima?) beans. Definitely a contender for the best looking dish. It was also very tasty. Those who do not like the smell of seafood may object to this dish, but, once they chew a few morsels of the paella, they will forget all their reservations against this dish. While we were eating at the restaurant, I felt that the rice needed to be cooked more, but I enjoyed it never-the-less. The pieces of fish, scallops, shrimp and the vegetables were all perfectly cooked and were incredibly tasty. If I had one complaint, it was that the calamari was rather leathery. We were soon full, but had enough paella for another meal. So, we took some home. After a quick saute in a skillet, the paella was delicious the next day too. It was the socarrat (the caramelized crispy part of the rice sticking to the pan) from the paella that made it feel like the rice needed to be cooked more. Definitely, the best dish of the evening!
- Chocolate Beignets: The waiter highly recommended this. He did not show us a dessert menu, but listed the options to us (I do not remember the options now). These beignets were simply awesome. The sugar dusted outside combined with the semi-sweet dark chocolate filling in the pastry cover was delicious. Definitely the best chocolate beignets one can find in NYC!
The vegetarian dishes on the menu were:
- Pan Tomaca: Toast bread with tomato spread, garlic, and olive oil
- Esperragod Verdes: Grilled asparagus with tomato marmalade
- Tortilla: Potato and egg omlette
- Patatas Bravas: Fried potatoes, garlic, aioli in guindilla tomato sauce
- Pisto Manchego: Sautéed vegetables topped with manchego cheese
- Gazpacho: Chilled Andaluz tomato soup
- Beet salad: Roasted red and golden beets with goat cheese and coca
- Vegetarian Paella: Paella with eggplant, cauliflower, artichokes, tomatoes, garbanzos, sugar snow peas
I will definitely go back to Socarrat for the tapas, the paella, and the chocolate beignets, but here are a few things to keep in mind:
- The restaurant has bar seating and has bar tables with bar stools – i.e., no back rest for the seats.
- The paella is priced for one person, but is served for a minimum of 2 people. The paella is not inexpensive, even if you take the leftovers home.
Socarrat has other locations too in NYC: in Nolita, and in the Upper East Side.
For more reviews (some dated) about Socarrat, read: