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Dec 15, 2009 07:34 AM

Soccarat Paella - AWFUL

It takes a lot for me to black list a restaurant, and publicly warn people against it, but considering the love affair people have been having with this place I really felt compelled to share my experience over the past 48 hours.

It all began on Sunday night, at 5:30 p.m., a half hour aftert they opened. It was a rainy, miserable night and the city was pretty dead. I showed up with my husband and a friend from out of town. FYI, they don't take reservations and you can't even speak to a live person when you call, you can only leave a message. Anyway, the restaurant has two sides, one room filled with tables the other with one four-top and a long bar with seating. We were informed it would be an hour wait to sit at the bar; they refused to seat us at the four-top table (we were too few) and the other room was completely empty. Idiocy. We left and said we'd try again another night.

Fast forward to yesterday night. Hubbie and I were in the neighborhood and, only because people rave about this place and we have been craving arroz negro since we went to the best place for it in Madrid with our friends who live there, we decide to give it another shot. We're told the wait will be 20 minutes, and they take our cell number and offer to call us if we want to have a cocktail nearby. We get the call 50 minutes later; after saying we were just around the corner, they guy tells us to hurry right over. We leave half-drunk drinks at the bar and hurry over, only to be told we have to wait -- and we do, another 15 minutes. In the interim, we put in our order for the arroz negro. When we are finally seated, we order the gambas al ajillo which arrive almost instantaneously and were completely unseasoned except for the garlic and oil they were sitting in and the shrimp were overcooked. We were starving and ate them. Finally, the arroz negro arrives and it looks, well, disgusting. The rice is in a thin layer; sprinkled on top of the rice are the a few boiled shrimp, a total of two scallops which were sliced into about 6 paper thin slices and scattered, a few pieces of raw red pepper and a few fava beans (not in season) also sliced in half, all boiled and totally unseasoned. The aioli they served with it had the consistency of dried out mayonaisse, not creamy at all, just lumpy. We dig in, considering our hunger and how long we've waited. The first spoonfuls reveal there are absolutely no calamari in this dish. After we try it, the rice is hard and crunchy. We dig around in the pan to see that none of the bottom is crispy, and we realize that the rice is just raw. Disappointed, we send it back. The bartender/waiter comes back from the kitchen and I assume he'll over us a free tapas while we wait for another paella. NOT SO. Instead, he informs us that the chef has asked if we would like some tapas INSTEAD. When pressed, he explains that they both tasted it and it was fine. We ask him to bring it back out, and we cut into rice grains and show him how they are not cooked through. After bringing it back to the kitchen, he returns and informs us that they chef said it was cooked perfectly and we can have tapas if we want. So, basically, the chef said f**k them, I know what I'm doing and I'm not going to try to please them with another paella. How European.

Needless to say, we walked out and spent the rest of the way home trying to pick uncooked rice out of our teeth.

Do yourselves a favor, if you're looking for good paella (or anything else, from what I could see) don't come here. Malaga on the UES is much better, probably El Faro as well though their food can be underseasoned, and at least their service is pleasant.

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  1. I have to say, I agree - this place is terrible. I took a friend of mine there (he really loves paella) and we were disappointed with the food (bland shrimp, undercooked paella.) The thing that really put me over the top was at the end of our meal. The host clearly wants us to leave so he can seat one of the (many) people waiting. He offers us a glass of sangria if we will move from the table to one of the chairs in the entryway. We reluctantly do this, but then we are basically blocking the door and the servers can't get by. So he pushes us out into their "patio," which involves going through the kitchen into an alley. We were completely dumfounded. Literally, there we are - holding glasses of sangria, by ourselves, standing on a concrete slab behind the kitchen. No tables or chairs, no lights. Just us with our "complimentary" wine. Unbelievable. We left 30 seconds later, to no thanks from the host. Will never go back.

    1 Reply
    1. re: chorosch

      Wow, chorosch, I can't believe your story is worse than mine. As to prdct's comment below, and not to be combative, but I don't see how opening up more space would make the service worse or the chef that much more of an a***ole. I think they are just very, very comfortable serving what many consider good food (because, notably, in my opinion, really fantastic Spanish fare doesn't exist in NYC, much like really killer Mexican food). I'll leave this place to the masses, just sorry I killed a whole night on it. My pizza from my corner shop Delizia on First Ave was, on the other hand, as delicious as it always is.

    2. Sounds like an awful experience--I'm sorry you had such bad food and service. I will say though that my two experiences here have been great. Both times I had long waits but the staff dealt with it well--taking my cellphone and calling promptly when our seats were ready. I've also had delicious paella--perfectly cooked with plenty of the crunchy layer. I will note that the last time I was there a few weeks ago they had not yet opened the second room which I presume is the new wine bar. Maybe that is causing some new issues?

      1. I've had two opposite experiences. When Soccorat first opened, it was lovely, despite the wait. Granted, it was a warm spring day and we arrived right at opening around 5pm. Both paellas (the meat and seafood) were perfectly crisp, the service was brisk and typically Spanish, and the dessert was out of this world (some sort of Catalonian fried chocolate). The tapas weren't the best I've had, but the gazpacho was the best in the city I had all summer, hands down.

        The second time though, it was much more like nattie's. It was a rainy weekend evening where we waited about an hour. We were told we were next to be seated, but then another 1/2 hour rolled by. The paella (house special this time) was greasy and the rice was soggy. The "service" was non-existent. I'm used to what Americans perceive as rudeness by Spanish servers, but this wasn't it -- this was just flat out inattentive. The only high point was the gazpacho was still good.

        So the question I pose to you, fellow hounds, is did the place go downhill irrevocably or has anyone had a good experience lately? I'd love to go back as when the paella is done right, it's wonderful.

        1 Reply
        1. re: lawstud

          Im going tonight! Will report back in the AM. I have only been once - in August and it was divine. My friend went about 6 weeks ago and also raved. We shall see what we are in for tonight.

        2. I go pretty often and love it there but then I'm a night owl and rarely get there before 10:30 PM. I wonder are they having issues with crowds at prime times? I can't imagine that this will get any better given that their wine bar next door just opened. I have to note that I have never had a bad paella there. They have always been perfectly crisp and the last few bites are to die for.

          1. I just went last night (12/17). Party of 2 and we arrived right after work before 5:30pm. Were the only patrons in the place until about 6pm. Space was filled by 7pm (im talking about the original space with the single long table - not the wine bar next door).

            Meal and service was as good as in the past. Had 1 app, glass of wine and the arroz negro. Food was hot and cooked wonderfully - servers were friendly and relaxed.

            Obviously I can't speak to what happens as the night progresses. Then again, Im not one of those people willing to wait for a table either. If I can't make a reservation somewhere, I don't go (unless I can arrive at 5:30 and know that I have no line)! I just don't have the patience no matter how great the food is.

            Hopefully the poor performance was just a temporary fluke!!