Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Spanish 101

Walking into Tertulia in the west village, I see an old, familiar face: Frank Bruni. The former Times critic who had once haunted me in New York restaurants sits one table away from me in Seamus Mullen's newest haunt, across from the unsurprisingly rotund Michael White. Let the party begin.

Tertulia is billed as a play on an old Spanish cider bar, but diners will be just as happy drinking cold and clean manzanilla sherry, or room temperature, nutty oloroso as they will be drinking funky, geuze-style cider. The food is equally appealing. A selection of cured meats did not include the old standby Jamon Serrano (you have to order that separately), but it did include a funky an unctuous selection of cuts from different parts of the pig, some lean and some fatty. Pan con tomate was just as toothsome and satisfying as it is in Barcelona. Croquetas seep with a warm bechamel of ham and quince paste.

The restaurant has only been open for lunch a few days and counts among its lunch time specials sandwiches of all competing kinds. We ate a mushroom and goat cheese version, with pine nuts and spicy pickles and a side of house made potato chips. Rice cooked on the plancha is the perfect combination of creamy risotto and crunchy socarrat, filled with tender snails, ribbons of oyster mushroom, and shards of Spanish ham.

Because the plates are small, you might feel inclined to keep eating; we did. As our closing number, we chose a plate of fried piquillo peppers--some mild and some debilitatingly hot--as well as two open faced toasts topped with a creamy crab salad. The crab is the perfect antidote to the intermittent spice of those salty little peppers. Verdict: get there if you can.

359 6th Avenue
New York, NY 10014

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