Just wanted to throw in a quick review of my trip to Urena the other night.
My office is around the corner (in this highly unfashionable part of town), so three of us from the office decided to stop by for a drink. The bartender was fairly slow and not very helpful, and at one point she did apologize for being slow as "we're really slammed" -- but the bar was nearly empty and the restaurant was half full. That said, the wine list is decent, so a few glasses of wine later we decided to sit down for dinner.
I am generally happy with almost any cuisine, but I do dislike overly complicated dishes -- Urena's style seems pretty straightforward, which is good. There were a number of things that looked interesting, but I chose the short ribs dish, one of my friends chose the chicken, and our other friend wanted tapas.
And that's where the issues really came from. On a Wednesday night, in a half full restaurant, apparently you can only have tapas at the bar. Since the main tapas menu was off-limits to her, she decided on a few of the items from the much-abbreviated list of tapas available to those of us paying for a full meal. And yet again she is stymied, as she only wants two of the dishes, but you can only order three at a time. We were also entertained by the fact that you can get a single cheese for $5, and three cheeses for $15. And I wouldn't be shocked if they didn't let you order two.
I was flabbergasted by the insanity of these policies. Why in the world would you restrict what people can eat, when it's clear that you could do with the extra business?
After that ridiculousness (she just doubled up on one of the tapas), our food was delivered in fairly quick fashion. And, it was quite good. Everything was very tasty, and while not spectacular, Urena's food is certainly good enough to be a really solid neighborhood restaurant.
So in a nutshell: Good food, decent decor (inoffensive at best), crummy service -- and I have no idea why anyone would want to come to 28th Street to eat here. Unfortunately, it's just not good enough to be a destination. Even working around the corner, I doubt any of us will be back. Which is sad, as the neighborhood could do with a few more good places.
I think Urena and I must be jinxed: this is the third time I have tried to post on my one dinner there about a month ago. Initially I wrote a long detailed review that disappeared when I posted it but I think it might have been a posting error? Second time a shorter review within another comment on site talk was definitely deleted. Bottom line is that I totally agree with net assessment: good to great food, appalling room and service.
The midweek night my friend and I ate at the bar, there were never more than four parties total in the room at any time. Only two other people sat at the bar the entire time we were there. But dirty napkins and glasses that we saw on entering were never removed, the bartender and two other people had to hunt for five minutes to find a strainer for our drinks, the dishwasher overflowed, our water glasses were not refilled, orders were confused (eg, she was served the wrong dish--and I had to ask to have mine taken back while hers was prepared), and staff huddled around the entrance in their coats to wait for us to leave although we left well before their published closing time.
Alex Urena may be a terrific chef and as I said, all of our food was good to great. But we won't be back and his talents will be wasted if he doesn't hook up with a better supporting cast.
I can't seem to find my original post on here about Urena but I wrote a post on my blog called "Urena In Or You're Out" (kind of a quirky one) located here: http://www.strumerika.com/2006/12/11/...
I actually had really nice service but we both ordered from the full menu. Those limitations seem ridiculous! They certainly need to think of other things besides making the food delicious, which they do a good job of.
We ate there last Saturday-arrived early, but the place filled up by the time we left. We didn't have any problem with the service-it was pleasant and efficient.
I didn't realize there were more tapas available than were listed on the menu...maybe they are trying to avoid tables of people eating one or two tapas and drinking? Still, I would agree it's better to be flexible.
I thought the food was well above average, especially for the price. I'll definitely be back.
As to the location...it's a few blocks north of Madison Square Park, with a subway stop on the corner (6)...how much of a trek is it?
"It just seems to me that they are somewhat neglecting everything besides the food."
I love this statement. It sums up Ureña perfectly.
Also try: Great chef serving up excellent flavors in a poorly run restaurant that charges too much for tiny portions.
The wine list is poorly-planned. Not a decent white wine by the glass to match the menu.
It bothers me that a Basque restaurant doesn't serve a Navarran wine beside Txacolí.
I recently visited Urena and wrote a review here:
I thought the food was definitely better than good. And the service I experienced was actually pretty good. Not 3 or 4 star service, but good. Though I can sympathize with the Tapas issue, that is kind of strange. A little flexibility goes a long way, especially if a restaurant isn't crowded.
It just seems to me that they are somewhat neglecting everything besides the food. Not completely, but enough that the effort in the front of the house doesn't match the effort in the kitchen.