Boqueria: Treat Yourself to Tapas
Boqueria is another jewel in the crown of the Spanish/Tapas culinary revolution happening in New York. Tapas joints boasting authentic Spanish flavors with innovative twists have proliferated in all corners of the city: Flor de Sol in Tribeca, Tia Pol in Chelsea, Alta in the West Village, Agozar! in the East, Beast in Prospect Heights, Calle Ocho on the Upper West, and Pipa in Flatiron. Boqueria, on 19th st and 6th ave and with a new location in Soho, has seized the spirit of this haute Spanish resurrection with pep.
Jostling, bustling, crowded, and loud, Boqueria is hectic and vibrant. Don’t expect a relaxing place for an intimate conversation. People come here for the energy (and the people-watching.) The space is long and narrow with a bar at the front and the dining room at the back. I sat at bar height tables along a long banquette and noshed on tapas while watching the ‘pretty people’ march by. As Boqueria doesn’t take reservations and its almost always packed, its very difficult to get a table in the back at peak dining hours without a wait. In the end, I think my selection of table was best in that I wasn’t crammed into the very tight seating in the back and I could people-watch and actually hear my dining mate simultaneously.
The menu is fairly limited for a tapas restaurant, yet it proves that bigger isn’t always better. The items to choose from are very well-curated, representing a range of flavors and textures. Our waitress recommended 4 to 6 dishes for a party of two, and we decided to start off with 4 and work upwards if necessary. We started off with the patatas bravas, a tapas classic, as everyone else around us seemed to start with it also. They were scrumptious – well-cooked, well-seasoned, doused in light yet flavorful spicy mayo. The potatoes were nice and crispy, not sogginess here! The ‘angry potatoes’ were followed by an heirloom tomato salad with watermelon, feta, and a vinaigrette. This was probably the weakest dish of the night – the tomatoes were not particularly flavorful and the vinaigrette was a little overpowering. The combination of flavors was a nice idea though – the sweetness of the watermelon was well-complemented by the sharpness of the cheese and the savoriness of the dressing.
After the two smaller plates, we had 2 meats: the suckling pig and the ‘hangar steak’. My dining companion and I were both convinced that the hangar steak was in fact a filet. It tasted exactly like the filets my mother used to broil at home and had the tenderness of a filet. Either way, it had a slightly chewy consistency despite its medium-rare temperature. The suckling pig was the star of the evening and was truly excellent. Almost buttery in its texture, the almost sweet pig meat just melted in your mouth – and the Valdeon blue cheese complemeneted the sweetness perfectly.
The 4 dishes were certainly enough for the two of us and despite our waitress’s desperate urging to order more, we closed the menu there. The sangria is worth noting – available in red, white and rose, it was out of this world delicious. It didn’t taste like Hi-C; it wasn’t too sweet; the fruit wasn’t soggy; and it wasn’t too pricey ($32 for a LARGE pitcher).
All in all, Boqueria is cheery and lively. It’s an excellent place to boost your spirits, enjoy some small plates, and chat with friends. Boqueria is well-suited for a raucous birthday party or after-work drinks. Just get there early, it gets packed early.