Estragon - first visit
Long-time Taberna de Haro fans - and Spanish food fans in general, we've spent a lot of time there over the years - we checked out Estragon for the first time last night. First impression: nicely decorated, large space, Spanish feel (though much cleaner than a real tapas joint, no papers on the floor - welcome to America). But loud - we had to yell to hear each other, and it was only 1/4 - 1/3 full at 10PM on a Thursday night. Every visible surface is glass or tile. I shudder to think what the noise level would be when it's packed.
On the food side though - very good! This was a post theater snack, not a full meal, so we ordered a pintxo (pintxos are the Basque version of Italian bruschetta) and a few tapas.
The first dish to arrive was littleneck clams cooked with serrano ham and caramelized onions, and it was seriously delicious, a real winner. The next was a pintxo of chicken livers, also quite tasty, though a bit more mundane (doesn't compare to my favorite chicken liver dish in town, Sol Azteca's higaditos Mexicanos).
This was followed by scallops, seared and served with a saffron-scented cream - pleasant, but mild. Flavorwise this should have been served first, but hey, it's luck of the draw in a tapas joint.
The finale was a special of the evening, and special it was - sauteed lamb sweetbreads, served with a simple dusting of black pepper, crunchy sea salt and a lemon wedge. My wife and I are both big sweetbread fans but had never tasted the lamb version. It was a revelation - precisely the same texture as the more commonly found veal sweetbreads, but with the distinct gaminess of lamb. It reminded me of when you slice a piece off the edge of a well-grilled lamb rib chop and get a bite that's half meat, half fat, tender and flavorful.
The wine list is excellent (as you would expect from the man who created TdH's great list), with ten or so sherries and a good selection of interesting choices by the glass. I was particularly impressed by a rich, almost smoky 2007 mencia (and now I wish I'd written down the name).
Portion sizes were very large by Spanish standards - the pintxo was a big slice of toast with at least six whole chicken livers, and the other dishes were more like raciones than tapas. But again - welcome to America.
Bottom line: we look forward to coming back and trying more of Julio's dishes, but next time will try to reserve an outside table so we can avoid the din..
Nice report. I love Taberna, and I love this place, too. Estragon's wine list is shorter and less amazing overall than Taberna's, but they make up for it a bit with cocktails. (Also, Deborah did and does the wine list at Taberna, not Julio. I think Julio's partner at Estragon may be responsible for their wine program, too. I'm just really glad Julio is in the kitchen; his opening chef was less traditional and not nearly as talented.)
Estragon does indeed take reservations, has their small patio going again, and is on OpenTable.
Pro tip: if a restaurant is on OpenTable and you know you want to go there, make the reservation from the restaurant's website, not the OpenTable site: it costs the restaurant a lot less if you do it that way.
re: MC Slim JB
While I agree that it's nice to save the restaurant a few bucks, there is a caveat to doing it this way. You don't get "points" (at least we didn't the one time we did it that way). Now that may be fine for some, but my wife and I have gotten over $300 in points coupons over the years, and while it's nice for the restaurant to get a few extra bucks, frankly, I prefer to keep the extra bucks I get from Open Table points in my own pocket.