Tuesday, September 16, 2008


I was recently asked what my favorite traditional Tapas restaurant is in all of New York City. This is not an easy question since Spanish Tapas restaurants seem to be popping up overnight - a trend that has been going on for several years now. After a minute or two of thought, I answered: Boqueria. I had been there two times at that point and so I was a little hesitant to declare such a title for this young, establishment. However, after having visited on a third occasion, I can confidently answer that question within a few seconds. And, my answer most definitely remains the same. It is one thing to please me, but to fully satisfy one of my pickier friends, is a much greater feat!

Boqueria proves to be a wonderful spot for any eater. Last week, I went there with some my mom and a few great friends - one of them who always claims to be a bit more finicky than the rest of us. The menu was ideal for our group - offering both adventuresome and simple plates. Thinking that I was being sneaky, I decided to order a combination of both types of dishes for our table to share (although, most items definitely skewed on the adventuresome end). A large portion of the menu is made up of extremely fresh, daily specials that are based upon items available at the Greenmarket that day. We divided each plate up evenly, paying no attention to who was picky and who was not. All four of us managed to clear each plate - and this was not because of small portions. Boqueria is actually one of the few Tapas spots where the low price does not indicate tiny morsels of food. Every dish held an ample amount of food, allowing four people to get more than a taste of each. We ordered six plates and that was the perfect amount.

It is hard to say what my favorite dish was since all 6 dishes were delicious and totally different - making it even difficult to compare them. From the regular menu, we ordered dates stuffed with almonds and valdeon cheese all wrapped in bacon, seared lamb marinated in lemon and cumin with salsa verde on top, and blistered shishito peppers with coarse sea salt. I have had many combinations of dates wrapped in bacon and these are by far my favorites. The last time that I went there, there were only 3 of us and we had to put in 2 orders of this dish! I also had to revisit the lamb dish. Not only was the meat perfectly prepared medium rare, but the cumin and lemon flavors made it stand out from a typical lamb dish. And, finally, the shishito peppers were a nice addition. They almost seemed like a Spanish version of edamame - easily popping them into your mouth, but with a much greater kick.

From the extensive selection of nightly specials, we ordered an heirloom tomato and orange slice salad with anchovies and pita crisps smothered in yogurt sauce, rock shrimp and water chestnuts in garlic broth, and suckling pig (pictured to the right) with artichokes, beans, and roasted peppers. Due to an overly rainy summer, tomatoes seem to be in their prime right now - much later than most years. This was the lightest and freshest dish that we ordered - a nice compliment to the many warm dishes on the table. The shrimp dish was totally different than we expected - boasting a unique blend of Spanish and Asian flavors. I would have normally never associated the two cuisines together, but this dish successfully pulled off the combination. But, it was the pig that I was most impressed that my friend polished off! The name alone should scare away most picky eaters - but, the amazing flavors of one of their signature special dishes proved that satisfaction really just comes down to flavor.

In addition to the food, I should probably mention that Boqueria has a great selection of wines. The bottles, in particular, are very well-priced. However, the wine bar up front and small bar tables make it the perfect place to also stop by for a few small bites and a glass of wine. The only catch (other than the fact that they do not take reservations) would be deciding which few tasty items to settle on. But, if my pickiest friend cleared all of her plates, I have no doubt that the menu is ideal no matter the duration of the outing. I am more than certain Boqueria just confirmed that, in the end, none of my friends really are picky eaters. Being picky is truly relative - it all depends where you are dining and who you are with!

53 W 19th St
New York, NY 10011
Phone: (347) 448-5729

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