Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Socarrat Paella Bar, Chelsea, New York City

A Crust to die for

Paella Valenciana, with pork ribs, rabbit, snails
snow peas and asparagus

Quiet Friday afternoon in Chelsea, New York City.
Marcel the waiter at Socarrat, who happens to be a
dancer from Barcelona, suggests an Albarino from
the wine list. "Trust me", he says.

I sip the crispy, refreshing Albarino and munch on
white anchovies with garlic and parsley on toast
while perusing the Paella menu.

Doesn't take me long to zero in on the Paella Valenciana,
which Marcel pronounces as V-a-l-e-n-th-ee-ana, with
a slight lisp around the 'th' sound in the middle.

"It will take about half hour", he says, and pours me
some more wine.

I look around. All the restaurant has is one long slender
highly polished bar counter and about two dozen high stools.
Brick-lined walls, mirrors and framed Spanish paintings
complete the look.
And all it serves is Paella. And just a few Tapas.
And that's enough to bring in the hordes in the evenings
when I believe the queue snakes around W 19th street,
making this small, tightly-focused Paella Bar one of
the most talked-about new restaurants in the city.

Because the Paella is very very good. My Valenciana came in
a gleaming black pan, smelling of everything that I imagine
Spain to be and tasting so good that I was almost giddy.
I haven't been to Spain yet you see, so perhaps it
doesn't count for much when I say this was the best Paella
I've ever had. But it was.

And that crust at the bottom, that glistening, slightly charred, caramelised , salty, bacony,
al dente layer of rice sticking to the bottom - Socarrat in Spanish - that was just to die for.
I scraped and scraped with the big steel spoon and licked it clean. Marcel was appreciative.
"That's the best part, yeah ? "

Socarrat Paella Bar
259 W 19th St, New York 10011
Phone: (212) 462-1000

"Eating in New York City" series

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