For whatever reason, I’d never been to a tapas restaurant until this year. You may recall that my first tapas experience wasn’t great, but then again it was in Wisconsin. So when my friend Jess suggested meeting for lunch at Boqueria I agreed, despite my reservations.
One of the reasons I’ve always been suspicious of tapas places is that I know you have to order a lot of dishes to fill yourself up, and that can get expensive. I was surprised to see that Boqueria offers some larger plates along with the tapas. I ordered the Bocata Remolacha ($9) a sandwich of beets topped with a soft-cooked egg, arugula, and butter. The taste combination was unusual, to say the least, but I liked it. I think. It was unusual enough that I wanted to eat the whole thing just to get my mind around it. It came with a side salad and an order of patatas bravas, which made it an even better value.
Since we didn’t know just how much food would come with our mains, we ordered some tapas to go along with them. Above you see the Espinacas a la Catalana ($7), sauteed spinach with garlic, raisins, pine nuts, and garbanzos. The contrast of the sweet and salty wasn’t quite what it should have been, but this was still quite good.
Listed simply as Lágrimas ($9) on the menu, these were sugar snap peas with cubes of apple and a smear of Valdeón cheese (usually served with bacon, but we requested without). This was another confounding dish, some sweetness and saltiness, all underpinned by the bold flavor of the cheese. Strange that lágrimas translates as “tears.”
My favorite tapa of the day was also the simplest. Pimientos de Padrón ($7) is merely “blistered” shishito peppers topped with coarse flakes of sea salt. I’ve had a similar dish before, but not executed so well. The peppers were flavorful and slightly spicy, and they were a great way to deliver the excellent sea salt to my mouth. I ate these compulsively throughout the meal.
My meal at Boqueria taught me two things: it made me realize how good tapas could be, but it also confirmed that tapas are not a cheap meal. Our check came out to about $50, which is obviously not the kind of lunch I can have on a regular basis. Still, I’m left craving those shishitos…
Boqueria — 53 W 19th St