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« One week. Two fetes. Celebrating Sirio Maccioni | Main | Cranberry bogging in the heart of Rock Center »
Wednesday
Oct242012

Dinner at Tertulia

  • Restaurant  Tertulia
  • Cuisine  Spanish, tapas
  • Location  359 6th Avenue (at Washington Place), Manhattan
  • Phone  646-559-9909
  • Directions  Hopstop
  • Atmosphere  warm, intimate
  • Attire  smart-casual
  • Ideal for  1x1, small groups, foodies, date night, small plates, outdoor dining area, dog-friendly
  • Price  moderate
  • Tertulia on Urbanspoon

"Cec, the choice is yours.  After all, we're celebrating *your* birthday." I replied, via email.  "Tell me where YOU want to eat."  It was a toss-up between Red Farm (for a unique spin on Chinese/dim sum) or Tertulia.  And, to be 100% honest, my fingers and toes were crossed in the hopes that Ceci would choose Red Farm.  I mean, Spanish food is just so...boring.  There, I said it.  And tapas?  The word, "tapas," alone, just pisses me off.  The last time I had "tapas," I was on a super romantic date with a guy that, actually, I really liked.  And, poof!  Just a few weeks later, we were done-zo.  So, yeah, aside from the word being annoying, I also associate "tapas" with heartache. 

"OK, so I've decided." Ceci exclaimed, "I choose Tertulia!"  Sigh.  On the Friday afternoon prior to our date, I spent what seemed like hours scrutinizing Tertulia's dinner menu, wondering a) if the restaurant had a full bar, and b) if dainty little tapas even had enough sustenance to fill me up.  Only time would tell...

Although Friday was rainy and dreary, the clouds seem to part the moment I arrived at TertuliaGo figure.  After receiving the decent margarita that I ordered while awaiting Ceci's arrival, I informed the hostess that there would be two of us.  "Just let me know when your guest is here," she said.  

When Ceci arrived, the hostess advised that the current wait time was an hour.  I gasped.  "But what about outside?  I see people eating out there," Ceci replied.  Luckily, due to a fickle forecast and trepidatious diners, there was an outdoor two-top with our names on it...

Table setting, margaritaDrink #2:  Apple cider sangria

Although not as sweet as I would have preferred, this cocktail was chock-full of flavor, courtesy of the apple and cinnamon infusion.  Each sip perfectly embodied the crisp, autumn season upon us.

In order to sample as many dishes as our stomachs would allow, Ceci and I chose to split multiple plates/tapas:

Langostinos A La Brasa (grilled Mediterranean prawns)

Although the menu described them as grilled, the prawns appeared and tasted as if they were steamed.  While relatively bland on their own, the grilled, halved lemon and garlic aioli accompaniments set the prawns ablaze with flavor.   

Croquetas de Jamon Iberico (Iberico ham croquettes)

Served atop smudges of sweet membrillo were three golden, golf ball-sized Iberico ham croquettes.  Enveloped by an exterior of crunchy fried breadcrumbs, each bite revealed a warm, molten cheese core that was dotted with salty bits of ham.

Ceci and I fell in love with these savory morsels. 

Ensalada de Otono (Autumn salad of kale, smoked egg, wild mushrooms, squash, pepitas, and Iberico ham)

Dense leaves of lightly-dressed kale greens were tossed with wild mushrooms, sliced butternut squash, pepitas - and crowned with ribbons of Iberico ham and a poached, smoked egg.

From the looks of it, alone, I was surprised by how much I actually enjoyed this salad.  Ceci allowed me to pierce the egg, whose yolk gently trickled down the kale leaves.  The bouquet of textures - silky/smooth ham, meaty mushrooms, supple squash, crunchy pepitas, and the egg - was truly invigorating. 

All in all, a brilliant and unique twist on composed greens.

Brussels Sprouts

Unfortunately, this dish is not listed on the restaurant's online menu, so I can only guess/assume its exact ingredients and how it was prepared

Halved and quartered Brussels sprouts arrived in a hot sautee pan (in which, I assume, they were cooked).  Texturally, they hinted at having been both pan-fried and roasted.  Heavily seasoned, the flavors were exotic and aromatic, with notes of cumin and, perhaps, some paprika.  Chunks of pork belly added a subtle smokiness.

Evening's special paella

Instead of the traditional rice base, this paella was composed of short angel-hair noodles.  Artichoke heart quarters, briny clams, and handmade sausage completed the dish. 

While I found the flavor of the clams verging on offensive, I absolutely loved the garlicky, house-made sausage and that crunchy "crust" that formed on the bottom of the skillet, a.k.a. "socarrat."  Aside from the clams, my only other complaint would be the sheer size of the paella:  It was tiny.   And it was also $38.  Gasp!

...

To conclude:  Tertulia was absolutely fantastic!  I would recommend this restaurant to anyone who appreciates unique and complex flavors, and portions that are un-American in size.  In other words, you won't leave the restaurant feeling as if you consumed a cow. 

I was, and still am, surprised by how much I actually enjoyed - and embraced - Tertulia's twist on Spanish cuisine, considering my disdain and romantic stigma surrounding "tapas."  In fact, I look forward to returning soon for brunch!

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle 

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