Opting for lunch at Sala One Nine, instead of dinner the previous evening, was a good choice because lunch at Tarallucci is a more casual affair (it’s a great stop for a breakfast coffee and croissant, too; see previous blog). Sala at lunch was full and buzzy but not bursting at the seams like the night before. There’s a fading grandeur about the place – crumbling walls, old gold baroquish ceiling, ornate glittering lights and scrubbed wooden floor – which is hip and modern, and even if it is manufactured, it somehow feels authentic. Bread was delivered – a generous chunk partially sliced which brought into play the ritual of breaking bread. Nice. The dark crust was thick and leathery, chewy and wholesome, yeasty, malty, almost like beer. Then came four superb dishes. First, croquettas, golden orbs, crisp-crusted, filled with potato, ham and a melting cheese centre – hot, salty, creamy and crunchy.
A generous dish of alcachofas con jamon (artichokes from Navarra with ham) were gloriously tender, rich and oily (and don’t you love it when someone has got rid of all the prickly bits for you), with the ham providing a nice salty kick, but oilier still, were gambas al ajillo– shelled plump pink shrimps with heaps of chopped garlic and a few dried pointy chillies.
The remaining bread found it’s home in the bath of richly flavoured oil. We were dunking and slurping and purring like kittens when the final dish lomo adobado arrived, a sandwich of crusty bread stuffed with pork sirloin marinated in adobo sauce, gruyere and roasted piquillo peppers. The peppers lent a smoky slightly piquant briny taste to the dish which balanced the sweetness of the pork.
Everything we ate was simply delicious – an overworked word I know, but sometimes it is the only one to sum up the depth of gorgeous flavours, the perfect execution of the dish, the visual enticement and tantalizing smells. Although I am sure we would have enjoyed any number of dishes on the menu and that’s without even going near the ubiquitous tortilla Espanola or patatas bravas (I’m going back for the white anchovies), we could go no further as we had to dash to catch a flight. It was a bit of a speed-feed but all up, one of the best tapas feasts I have had out of Spain. If you’re in New York, don’t miss it. And for a nice little touch, order the same wine as us, a bottle of Cable Bay Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand.
Sala One Nine
35 West 19th Street (between 5th and 6th Avenue)
New York Tel 212 229-2300
With groaning stomachs, we sped to the airport and me on to my brother’s place in Boston, to finish the day with a dish of larb (a Thai salad of minced meat, chicken in this case, mint, chilli, and salad greens) followed by a slice of my German sister-in-law Dolores’ famous cheesecake (I’ll post the recipe soon). How’s that for a global 24 hour’s eating? Italian, Spanish, Thai, German. Next day? Diet.
I wish! Actually, got on the Air New Zealand flight from San Fran to Auckland, a 13-hour longhaul, and usual story, I wasn’t going to eat until the menu came around. I couldn’t resist the starter of a little square of baked parmesan ricotta cake with a salad of yellow beets, mache (lamb’s tongues), smoked almonds and pomegranate seeds, with a pomegranate molasses and avocado oil dressing. It was so fresh and citrusy with zingy little bits of pomegranate exploding on the tongue, the earthy taste of beets and bite of salty smoky nuts…. And it was all gobbled up too soon. I got on a roll, as is my want, and ordered a Spy Valley sauvignon blanc (I’d just flown Boston to San Francisco on United where I was offered ‘white’ wine, a dubious chardonnay, or ‘red’ which was a malbec, which was, let’s say, drinkable, – Air NZ had a choice of at least 6 wines and the sauvignon was bright, crisp and fruity, a perfect match for the appetizer). I switched to pinot noir for the lamb, and what a great match that made with a slightly peppery lamb loin served pink, with shredded braised lamb shank alongside, sweet potatoes and a spinach custard. You’ll hear me say this often: you can’t expect food in the sky to taste as good as food in a restaurant, because of the practicalities (it’s food in numbers which must be prepared in advance, sometimes partially cooked then blast chilled, which then has to pass rigorous bacterial checks, it’s then transported and kept chilled until just prior to reheating or serving, among many other considerations), but Air NZ gets as close as you can to serving up tasty well made food across their menus, with occasional stunning results. Highly recommended as an airline.
Now for me, it’s a brisk walk around the neighborhood to drink in some lovely spring air…and to stop that padding on the thighs taking hold!!!