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Sep 13, 2007 01:48 PM

Pamplona Quick Review

Went to Pamplona last night for the first time. I live around the corner so I was hoping to make this into my own neighborhood tapas bar (something like Las Ramblas). We had the iberico and manchego cheese fritter which was good but nothing oustanding. We got the mixed olives and a crostini topped with chorizo and shrimp. Everything was just okay. But the service was terrible. We were practically the only ones sitting at the bar and it took the awkward bartender about 20 minutes to take our drink order. Then he couldn't even recommend a wine. Our food took a long time to come out and the olives, which were located behind the bar were not given to us after we finished our first 2 tapas. To make matters worse we ordered a 3rd dish that never actually came. Because the service was so bad and the food was overprice we left and finished up at a different restaurant.

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  1. Sorry to hear this... I like the food when it was Urena, even if the service was a bit clueless.

    1. Alas, I have to agree. I went with high hopes since a lot of people whose opinion I respect a lot on this board liked Urena so much. I thought the food was okay, but not as good as Boqueria or Tia Pol. The service was WOW so bad. The waiter didn't know what cava or an oloroso was, which is fairly sad since both were on the menu. We only recieved 2 of the 3 tapas we ordered. We had to ask for silverware when the second course came. The paella came out with no serving spoon. ANd those last two came from someone who looked like the manager, not from our waiter. I give the place 3 months.

      1 Reply
      1. re: jasmurph

        It's funny you mention that, we actually had to ask for silverware as well.

      2. This is a pity. They do need to get the service right, and it's not quite there yet. But it hasn't been open a week.

        The food is very good, however, and very well priced. The paella - rabbit, mussles, clams, shrimp - comes in the traditional pan for two people at $30. Some of the tapas were first-rate: the chorizo/shrimp pincho, for example and the crab sandwiched in phyllo. The wines are inexpensive too - a 1996 Lopez de Heredia white for $48. I think he's a really good chef, and I'm still hoping he overcomes the shortcomings of the location and makes it work.

        Pictures and more details here:

        2 Replies
        1. re: Wilfrid

          I tend to agree with your posts and your opinions, and no one is a bigger Clash fan than me, so I'll take your word for it that you had a Ureña-esque experience at Pamplona.
          I'm very disappointed. It seems Alex needs to get out of the business of the restaurant business and keep preparing his wonderful food for someone who can manage the floor staff.
          My wife and I were there on the second night and we had a really nice experience. See here:

          I guess the staff only had a few good nights in them.

          1. re: Chow Baby

            A little harsh after just a few days. The place has been wildly busy.

            Glad to see you liked the food, though.

        2. I liked the food at Urena but hated the service by the maître d'hôtel/sommelier. Is he still there? I hope that the owner has gotten rid of him!

          1. Regulars on this board know that I adored Alex's "Urena cuisine"! I found the ambiance quite pleasing, and we never had service issues.

            This evening, we had dinner at Pamplona. Though Alex may say he's trying to cook "simple" food, it really isn't in his nature. So, the cuisine we had continues to be wonderfully complex and delicious.

            From the tapas menu, we had eggplant meatballs -- sensational! -- and very tasty shrimp and chorizo "kebobs" served on toasts topped with melted chevre. My main course scallops (3) were seared perfectly, topped with a bit of sausage (whose name escapes me) and a tiny dollop of something creamy, set atop a bed of finely chopped apples and celery. Totally delicious! My husband had the slow-cooked cod, pistou of vegetables, and Vizcaina sauce. I had a taste, and it was excellent. For dessert, we shared the feather-light churros, which we dipped in yummy chocolate sauce.

            The restaurant was quite busy, but we had absolutely no problems whatsoever with service. The makeover is very nice, the now clothless tables remain comfortably spaced, and the room hummed with the noise of people really enjoying themselves.

            In all the times we went to Urena, we never saw it anywhere near as hopping as Pamplona was this evening. Lots of people at the bar, all the high tables for two located there were occupied, and more than half the tables in the dining area occupied. So, I think it's a very good sign. I agree with Wilfrid that it's early days. There's a new manager and additional staff, and I feel certain the service kinks will be worked out.

            3 Replies
            1. re: RGR

              You seem to have great taste in restaurants RGR, the fact that you love Campanile makes me trust you(!), so I will probably give Pamplona a try on my next trip to NY. I usually stay in that area of town and I loved the food at Urena, it was the service that I had problems with. I won't start again with this one...haha...

              What are your other favorite restaurants in town RGR?

              1. re: cricri7

                Hey, cricri7,

                Thanks so much for the compliment! :-)

                Right now, Eleven Madison Park is far and away my favorite NYC restaurant. But Fleur de Sel remains high on my list of favs, as is Cafe Boulud. Tocqueville and L'Impero are also on that list.

                In the much less upscale category, La Petite Auberge is my favorite old-style French bistro. Turkish Kitchen has always been my first choice for that cuisine though, recently, I really liked the food at Ali Baba. For Greek, it's Ethos. For bbq, I like Hill Country and Daisy May's.

                In the Theater District, Trattoria Trecolori is my favorite Italian. I also like Marseille for French/Mediterranean and West Bank Cafe for New American.

              2. re: RGR

                I also went last night and enjoyed the food and didn't have problems with the service (which wasn't spectacular but was passable). We had bunch of tapas including the serrano ham, some queso, the cured tuna appetizer and the manchego fritters. All very good but nothing outstanding and reasonably priced. I wanted to get the cod but they were sold out by the time we ate (got there around 930 and it was still packed). We got the paella instead which was perfectly prepared but at the end of the day, its still paella and I'm not sure I'd opt for it again. I was also interested in the confit of suckling pig but my wife doesn't dig swine cooked in its own fat (poor girl).

                I also agree with RGR that the make over is very nice. It looks much much better than when it was Urena. THe wine was also reasonably priced, although I'd like a few more selections by the glass (only 3 white and 3 reds plus one cava and one rose).