Barraca, NYC

January 15, 2013

This is my third blogpost in 18 months on restaurants under three different names with Jesús Núñez as the chef. His Graffit, a bit north of Lincoln Center, had to change its name as being too close to that of an established competitor. Then, he left Gastroarte in September in some kind of a dispute with the owner. We had enjoyed his Spanish cuisine under both names. Now he cooks at Barraca, owned by Hector Sanz, whose restaurant group is also behind downtown spots Macondo and Rayuela.

Núñez says:

“In the last two years, I was doing modern Spanish cuisine and now I’m changing to global, casual comfort food.”

During the Sandy power outage, Barraca was the only restaurant in the West Village able to stay fully open via a generator and refrigerated truck. Blair and I went for dinner a week later on November 10, 2012. 

There is a bar opposite the front door of Barraca with vats of various prepared sangrias.

The dining room is quite dark. The little candles on each table probably hinder more than help food photography, so you may find the photos below a bit grainy.

We started with glasses of the house cava. They were followed by bottles of 2006 Izadi Reserva and 2010 Casa Castillo Monastrell. The first was rich and complex, made mostly from 60+ year-old Tempranillo vines in the Rioja. The second was lighter, made 100% from Mourvèdre grapes grown in Murcia. (That may seem like the wrong order, but the whole meal was that way, starting with the richer tapas.)

The menu all fits on one large page. There is a varied selection of tapas, vegetables, salads, flatbreads, six paellas, grilled dishes, cheeses, desserts and a stapled-on list of the day’s specials.

We started with
Jamon De Pata Negra 5 “Jotas”

This is the top of Spanish ham. The flavor is complex and elegant. The freshly carved slices were served with slices of pan con tomate, lightly grilled bread topped with a fresh tomato mash.

Then came
Pimientos De Piquillo Rellenos De Rabo De Ternera
piquillo peppers stuffed with oxtail stew and creamy piquillo sauce

This was quite rich and enjoyable. Well done.

Pulpo A La Parrilla Con Patatas, Pimientos Asados Y Pimenton De La Vera
grilled octopus and baby potatoes, roasted peppers and pimentón de la vera

The typically Spanish smoked paprika sparked up this interesting tapas. (That is a chunk of roasted purple potato amongst the two white ones.) 

Patatas Bravioli
crispy potatoes with spicy sauce and ali-oli

The potatoes were not really crispy as they should be; bravioli is a compound from patatas bravas, one of the most common tapas in Spain, served with a spicy tomato sauce and ali-oli, which we know as aïoli, or garlicky mayonnaise. Here the spicy sauce was light green, without tomato.

Panceta alla Parilla
Grilled Pork Belly and Collard Greens

This was nice, but would have been better if the pork belly had been left on the grill longer and crisped up around the edges.

When the tapas were done, chef Núñez came by to say hello. By that time the dining room was so noisy I couldn’t hear him, but he had a nice conversation in Spanish with Blair, who once lived in Granada for six months.

One can order two paellas in one pan, divided by an iron strip.

We had the
Paella De Mariscos
shrimp, clams, mussels, scallops, swordfish. and squid

The seafood was nice, although the swordfish seemed out of place. There was a bit of crispy socarrat, the crispy caramelized bottom layer of the rice around the edges, but not much. The rice was overly oily and mushy.

and the
Mediterranean noodles, cuttlefish, butifarra sausage and shrimp

This wasn’t at all what I expected. We ordered it because I had such an excellent fideuà at Els 4 Gats in Barcelona last February. That was made with thin, vermicelli type noodles, which were crisp, having absorbed all the seafood stock. That is the type of noodle called for in any fideuà recipe I found on Google. These noodles were like little, hollow, mushy elbow macaroni. The cuttlefish, other seafood and sausage had nice flavors, but the effect wasn’t there.

As we still had some wine left and were in no hurry, we ordered a plate of three cheeses: Tetilla, Manchego and Idiazabel.

Our dessert was
Coca de Frambuesa
flatbread with rasperries, almonds and meringues.

This was excellent 

Our various waiters were friendly, helpful and efficient. The pace was right.  We had a good time, but the inadequacy of the paellas was very disappointing. I can’t say we weren’t warned; Marc Shepard and Chowhound posts had said the same thing. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Barraca has found a formula for success in the West Village. While one can be extravagent, as we were with the Pata Negra and quite a lot of wine, a basic meal with some tapas, a grilled dish and dessert could be good and reasonable for NYC.

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