Graffit, NYC

March 10, 2011

Jesús Nuñez had gained a reputation as an inventive chef at two restaurants in Madrid, but he moved to New York two years ago. He started cooking at 22 and is now 35. He recently opened his new restaurant, Graffit, named after Nuñez’s teenage artistic efforts and the images he paints on the plates. Unusually for such ventures, it is a few blocks north of Lincoln Center so Linda went for dinner before the opera on February 19, 2011.

On entering, one passes through the bar area where a tapas menu is offered. We were seated opposite the large bullfight graffito on the brick wall which extends the length of the main dining room.
I ordered a glass of Cava: Raventós L’hereu de Nit, Sant Sadurni d’Anoia. This sparkling wine is made near Barcelona from indiginous macabeo and parellada grapes. Refreshing and good.

We looked at the regular menu and a small menu of the day’s specials. An amuse gueule arrived: beef tartare and an “edible sangria,” topped with a granita, which was too fruity to be a good meal starter.

A basket of good small breads with strong Spanish olive oil was put on the table.
The wine list is all Spanish and very reasonably priced. We ordered a bottle of 2000 Viña Ardanza reserva (Rioja), which was superb.
 Linda’s first course was
Eggplant roll stuffed with confit rabbit sautée with vegetables fried in tempura, pistachio paste, idiazábal cheese

The tempura treatment of the eggplant brought out its flavor, which went well with the rich rabbit filling. The pistachio completed the complementary flavors. Excellent.

My first course was
Confit artichokes, Serrano ham, clams

The artichokes had been well prepared and bringing out their natural flavor. The ham was also top quality. Everything about the dish worked together. Excellent.

Linda’s main course was
Smoky wild boar shank, saffron pasta, roasted mushrooms and pearl onions, mint jelly

The wild boar ragout had a true, good smoky taste and aroma. Its richness, which made it seem like oxtails, was cut by the pasta. Very good. 

My main course was
Beef cheeks, banana polenta, hazelnuts, spicy plantain chips

The beef cheeks, pressed into a rich, dark cube, were very good, but one only needed a third as much of them and three times as much of the interesting garnishes. Frustrating.

Linda’s dessert was

There are millefeuille layers of apple inside the cube. The multiple apple flavors and textures inside and under the cube, balanced with Graham cracker crumbs and berries make an unusual, excellent dessert.
My dessert was
A study of Spanish moscatel

A gel of moscatel wine was served with two sets of fruits embedded. Those on the left represent the aroma of the wine; those on the right its body. I enjoyed this.
There was a plate of small mignardises to go with the espresso to keep me awake during the opera.

The chef came over and we had a nice chat. When I congratulated him on bringing out the flavor of the vegetables, he said that the difficulty of getting ingredients with good flavor was his biggest frustration in New York.
Our waiter, José, was very helpful and attentive. The pace of the meal was right. The noise level was much too high; conversation would provide plenty of animation in this narrow pace without being ramped up with music.   

Our meal was very good, with only one of the six courses, the beef cheeks, being disappointing. The flavors were interesting, well matched and presented. We will be back. ¡Olé!

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