Saturday, January 9, 2010
Socarrat Paella Bar
Last night a friend and I decided to try our luck at Socarrat Paella Bar, a popular Chelsea restaurant that operates on a first come first served basis. We agreed to a 45 minute wait and were directed to a quiet table inside owner Jesus Manso's latest endeavor- a 3 week old tapas/wine bar (Socarrat Bar de Vinos) conveniently attached to Socarrat Paella Bar. We ordered a bottle of wine and a plate of Spanish cheeses to tide us over while we waited for our spot at the paella bar's communal table. When it finally came time to move next door (over an hour and a half later) we were knee deep in booze and ready for our pre-ordered paella- a trick the waiters try to pass off as a favor, done so diners can be shuffled in and out quickly (we were clued in when we declined dessert at the end of our meal and our waiter rudely informed us, "There are a lot of people waiting.").
Suspect service and wait time aside, our Paella de Pescado & Mariscos (loaded with colorful ingredients like Spanish rice, chunks of white fish, cuttlefish, shrimp, mussels and cockle clams in shells, squid, thinly sliced scallops, fava beans, and sweet red peppers) was a gastronomic treat. When the paella was placed on a pedestal in front of us all conventional etiquette was thrown to the wayside- our plates were rendered useless as we edged our faces dangerously close to the steadily rising steam and began to use our forks to comb the shallow pan. The fact that we were instructed to wait until the thin blanket of rice stopped crackling did nothing to slow us down. We were battling for the prized socarrat (the deliciously crunchy, nutty grains of rice stuck to the edges and bottom of the pan), the seafood and vegetables were an added bonus. Luckily there was an abundance of socarrat and, in the end, the Paella de Pescado & Mariscos (priced for 2 people at $23/person) proved to be too much for us- over a quarter of the paella was left uneaten as we headed home...a little fatter and much happier.