Las Ramblas Recs?
Going to Las Ramblas later this week after reading good things about it on this board. Any great dishes or wines that stand out? I LOVE Spanish food and rarely have Spanish dishes that I don't like but wanted to get some input. Thanks so much!
I wrote this in June:
Las Ramblas is a newish tapas bar named for Barcelona’s famed pedestrian boulevard. It’s an almost microscopic place, occupying the W. 4th Street storefront that was, for may years, home to The Bagel. Utilizing bar tables and stools to make the most of the tiny space, it’s not really a place that lends itself to a languorous dining experience, which is too bad, because it would be great to savor a number of the offerings over a leisurely evening of drinking.
My usual rule of thumb for tapas, when making a dinner of it, is three plates per person, so my friend and I ordered six at first, three from the main menu and three from the specials board. The specials tend to be higher-priced than most of the main menu items, at about $9-12 each. The food was so good that we had to go for a seventh item before we left. With drinks, it worked out to over $50 per person (with tip), but one can probably keep it to $35 without too much trouble.
Every item was a winner, which is a not-too-frequent occurrence. Each dish had very particular, bold flavors, and the chef has clearly paid great attention to seasonings and taste combinations. Nothing was timid, nothing was heavy-handed.
Serrano ham-wrapped monkfish: delicately flavored little filets, served atop a lentil salad that had a prominent, but not overwhelming, vinegar presence. The combination worked.
Morcilla salteado (sauteed morcilla): two kinds of blood sausage (one with rice), rich and flavorful without being over-salty.
The sliced duck breast special was served with a peach/muscatel sauce that was fairly sweet, but not cloying. It was a delicate balance, and in lesser hands it could easily have gone over the edge.
From the menu:
Banderillas con chorizo de pato: mini-skewers of duck sausage, with quail egg & pearl onion. Simple & tasty. I should have asked where the sausages (if not home-made) could be procured.
Patatas bravas: this version of Spanish fried potatoes with spicy smoked paprika and aioli is the best I've had in NY since the demise of Helena's on Lafayette St. This is a ubiquitous tapas bar item in Spain, but the best version, and easily the best fast food I’ve ever eaten, can be found at the multi-location Las Bravas chain in Madrid. Las Bravas has a patented (and highly addictive) secret sauce that they pump onto the potatoes as well as skewered meats.
Mushrooms with sherry & almonds: The aromatic sherry flavor, marrying with garlic, highlighted the earthy mushroom taste, the overall effect being parallel, compatible taste sensations.
We could have stopped after six plates, but as I mentioned above the food was too good to quit, so for our "dessert" we ordered grilled octopus, which was served with purple potatoes. The different-than-usual potatoes were a nice touch, the octopus tender and delicious.
Portions are really huge-- I haven't been able to consume more than 1.5 tapas myself and I am a big eater. The mushrooms are good and the sardines are amazing. I find the place strangely off-putting, though, and it is more than just the location. Some of the staff are kind of diva and obviously favor some clients over others. The big problem, though, is the noise level. I have gone early and I have gone late and the music is always just loud enough to be too loud and sets my teeth on edge. I like to relax with a late afternoon tapa but find I can't wait to get out and away from the noise at Las Ramblas.