If you like tapas, sangria, and feeling like you are part of the cool crowd, get yourself to Barraca. Barraca is a new West Village tapas restaurant by chef Jesus Nunez. The night that we were there, the chef was actually walking around the restaurant between cooking in the back, which is sadly the exception and not the rule in New York City. Don’t even think of coming to this small, bustling restaurant unless you have a reservation.
Our meal began with some Albondigas. These little meatballs are more flavorful than their names would have you believe. The beef is soft and spiced with garlic, onions, and oregano. They are moist, laying in a broth of roasted carrots, turnips, and other root vegetables, making a sweet and savory bed for these heavenly meatballs. Next up, Patatas Bravioli with ali-oli and brava sauce. Brava sauce indeed, because BRAVA to whomever invented this dish. Fried hunks of potatoes, crispy on the outside and unbelievably fluffy within, are layered with fragrant saffron and pepper heavy brava sauce and garlicky, creamy ali-oli. It is french fries gone Spanish, and it is absolutely fantastic. As a bonus, they are great for soaking up the booze in the deceptively easy-to-drink pitchers of sangria.
Jaretta de tenerra is the veal shank of my dreams. Sweet and savory, mingled with softly caramelized onions, the deep tannins of wine, and the slightly salty taste of Cabreles cheese. It has an almost jamlike consistency, spreadable and pleasantly fatty on the pliant charred bread served alongside. For all the world, this is the Spanish version of pulled pork and Texas toast – indulgent, meaty, and totally satisfying. The Lechuga a la Brasa, or braised lettuce, is also marvelous! Tender in some parts, crispy and charred at others, served with a sauce so garlicky that it would kill Dracula on the very spot. It is warm, slightly bitter, and surprisingly meaty, almost like bok choy, but with a decidedly Spanish kick. This is an absolute sleeper hit and must be eaten to be understood.
Barraca isn’t cheap, but it isn’t priced out of its neighborhood or quality either. It is an upscale night out, great for a group of friends or a double date.