Boqueria Reigns in Food of Spain

If you want great Spanish food in New York, look for an Irish-American chef. Bolo’s butter-cheeked Bobby Flay is already well known; Boqueria’s sun-averse Seamus Mullen will be soon.

Cause For Applause:

1) Clean flavors: Market-fresh arugula, scapes and other seasonal produce lighten and brighten up bar snacks and large plates. Don’t worry though, Mullen’s no culinary Calvinist. The menu also contains plenty of fried favorites for those so inclined, from meal-opening croquetas—obligatory and workmanlike— to meal-ending churros—extruded wonders that belong on the short list of New York super-doughnuts.

2) Dirty chef: I love it when the chef makes the rounds of tables, especially if there’s evidence of cooking on his whites to tell you he’s really working the stoves. Even better when he’s a shy kitchen craftsman happy to hear a compliment or answer a question but happier still to return to his station. Mullen’s no media-savvy FN food actor, and that’s great news for dedicated food fans.

3) Quality Caffeine on The Quick: The barman at Boqueria had no problem answering a booze athlete’s call for a mid-bout bolus of restorative caffeine. He also knew to cut it with a pitch perfect half-nipple of milk. For those who tend to match wine to water consumption, consider throwing caffeine in the mix and you just might outlast the college kids at the other end of the bar.

4) High performance, low-key cheese plate: A perfect bar snack or first dessert. One of the best edited and plated cheese selections I’ve seen recently. An understated wood plank held flavor complementing cherries, apples and quince paste alongside generous chunks of lush ripe torta de serena, garrotxa, idiazabal and cabrales.

5) Golden Showers at the Bar: Half the fun of easygoing Txakolí is the pouring method. Here it’s cascaded down from on high, just as it is in Galicia and the Basque Country. Fine to drink this light white at the tables as well, but much better up front. Would you order French maid service for your apartment while plugging away at the office?

Cause for Correction:

1) Twice-killed swine: Rough-cut thick slices of jamón serrano took subtlety out of the dish. Spanish ham should be too good for this brutish treatment. And speaking of pigs, how about some feet on the menu?

2) Still no Orujo: Spain’s grappa homologue remains elusive in this city. A server hinted at the culture preserving virtues of trade barriers in explaining its absence from the menu. I say leave the canned fish back on the Peninsula and start importing the world’s best hooch.

3) Not much bottom to the wine list: Txakolí and the other Basque whites on Boqueria’s list were once the quite reasonable choices of factory workers out for a low budget low pretense moveable feast. I know Spain has moved up in the world economy and that the Euro is now crushing the dollar, but there have to be a few Iberian options left under thirty dollars. The same applies to double-digit heavy options by the glass.

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6 Responses to “Boqueria Reigns in Food of Spain”

  1. Marie M. Says:

    Has anyone tried the massive beef roast for two? It sounds great, but I couldn’t bite the 62 dollar bullet.

  2. Larry G Says:

    What about Mercat? Who’d win in a head to head? And aren’t both taking their names from the same Market (Mercat) in Barcelona, i.e., the famed Boqueria?

  3. Food Fan Says:

    I loved Boqueria, but I’m also a fan of Tasca. It’s Xunta and Pipa that I don’t get.

  4. Larry G Says:

    I guess Bruni liked Boqueria more.

  5. Booze Cruiser Says:

    Anyone who’s had Bolo’s port wine cooler would put Flay’s restaurant up top or close to it!

  6. Anonymous Says:

    Don’t forget Ureña for more refined Spanish food: it’s Adria by way of Bouley.

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