Reports are so divided. Has anyone been recently who can provide an update on menu, service, decor, and noise/music? They have all drawn criticism, but I am tempted by the occasional paean to the food.
Yes. Quite the opposite of noise, the place was almost empty. Very sad. Service and decor remain sub-standard given the ambition of the restaurant. Alex Urena is, however, a talented chef, and the food is good to very good. The best news is that it's currently an exceptional bargain - hard to find entrees of this quality under $30 anywhere else.
It's a shame it's being overlooked.
I ate here last night and thought it was outstanding, we had a goat chese ravioli with braised rabbit that was great, the Foie Gras three ways was very good, the Foie yogurt was incredible, and I had one of the best chicken dishes that I can imagine being created, so juicy tender packed with flavor and with crisp crackly skin and a confit as well. It was full at 8:00 and remained so throughout the evening. The decor and service might leave a bit to be desired, and I was not knocked out by the wine list(although we had a fine bottle)but the meal really was better than I had expected. I would reccomed it fairly enthusiastically.
re: Alan Henderson
Thanks. It's a pity their website doesn't have their menu posted! I'm trying to find the name of the chicken dish that you brilliantly described.
What bottle of wine did you end up ordering?
Edit: nevermind. I found the menu link at the top right. Is this the chicken dish you mentioned?
Pollo Y Cerbeza
slow cooked chicken, iberico-stout bechan\mel, yellow pepper-waxed beans puree, watermelon, citrus sauce
I went last night and had a wonderful meal. Yes, the decor is tired and there is no music but even so the place was very full for a Wednesday night at 9PM. We had a reservation for 2 and our table was the only vacancy.
Mom had the goat cheese ravioli with braised rabbit to start and I started with the beef cheeks with foie gras and field green salad. Both starters were sublime and we licked our plates clean.
Entrees were the duck breast for Mom- good but oddly cut into rectangle shapes, and could have used a bit more seasoning. I had seared tuna wrapped in bacon with chickpea puree.
The current menu is very different than what is up on menupages so they must have revamped it already. The meal was rounded out with some yummy petits fours- chocolate lollipops and orange gelee. The service was friendly and timely and we enjoyed our meal with a 2004 Torres Rioja which was fruit forward and beautiful.
I thought the portion sizes were perfect though I have heard some complaint from others. Our choices were quite rich and I couldn't have asked for anything larger.
I wouldn't recommend Urena for a special occasion given the decor but if you'd like a delicious and unique meal then go for it. For my decent-restaurant-hungry neighborhood, Urena is a welcome newcome.
Thanks for the excellent review. No music? Well, that suits me just fine! (One of my restaurant pet peeves is annoyingly high noise levels with booming music adding to the cacophony.) Urena's been on my "go to" list for some time, and for that reason alone, I'm now moving it way up.
Actually, there was some light jazz / lounge music the night I went (Thursday). But it was barely noticeable.
We tried the chicken dish, which was as good as Alan Henderson described. The fois gras three ways was also good, although the yogurt taste seemed to mask the fois gras a little too much.
Went on Friday night, wasn't packed but had a good attendance. It seems that they must have addressed the lighting issue mentioned in the NY Times review, because, it was not harsh and glaring. The food and its presentation was great. They had a tasting menu for $125, which looked like a good value. But instead, we had (sorry, but can't remember all the details): tapas (jamon and croquettes); appetizers of poached egg, and foie gras; main of braised short ribs and crusted cod; dessert of chocolate fritters and a chocolate tart. I thought the appetizers and the chocolate fritters were particularly outstanding. The cod was pretty standard fare, but the braised short rib was very hearty and flavorful.
I think that Urena suffers from the location, but is great if you hate the Friday night crowds and waits.
Thanks for all the responses & reports. It sounds as if fish is not the way to go at Urena, am I right? I would probably tend in that direction otherwise. I am going for the first time tomorrow evening. Too bad and really just mystifying about the outdated on line menu. I always like to review in advance and can't think what could be so difficult about uploading a current menu (Urena is not the only offender in this regard, obviously).
Just to weigh in, my wife and I have been to Spain 6 or 7 times in the last 9 years and Ureña is BY FAR the most authentic Spanish/Basque restaurant in NYC.
Their desserts hit the mark with astonishing accuracy and the food is remarkably close to some of the dishes we find in San Sebastián.
That said, I'm glad to hear it if they're not playing music anymore. The last time we were there, we listened to the cheesiest Gypsy Kings soundtrack for over an hour.
The wine list is all over the place with too many misplaced selections. Given Spain's variety of great producers and newly-available wines, there is no reason to include several California wines, both white and red. There are also a couple of South American bottles. They should have left room for some regional Navarrans instead.
Just my opinion.
I've not been to Urena yet, but when Alex was Executive Chef at Marseille, I had a salmon dish there that was delicious. That, along with foodie4life's experience with the tuna, indicates that Alex has a way with fish, so I, too, would not shy away from ordering it at his eponymous place.