Alta – The Tops in Tapas

If I ever eat with you, I WILL expect you to share your food. The best thing about eating out is trying a little bit of everything – tasting together, discussing it, disagreeing on the best dish. It’s what makes eating out into an experience, vs. just a fueling session. If you don’t share, you can’t eat with me. 
 And you definitely can’t eat at Alta, a globally-influenced tapas restaurant in the West Village. 
 When we arrived for our reservation, the bar area was hopping and noisy. Narrow but not crowded, this was a place to see and be seen – not so great for a first date, but perfect for catching up with friends or for a post-work happy hour. 
 The restaurant is deceptively large, with many rooms, including some that you access…
by walking straight through the kitchen.  
 Crispy Brussels Sprouts fuji apples, crème fraiche, pistachio nuts.
These Brussels sprouts were outstanding – the best I have had since 9. Crispy as potato chips, lightly salted, with jsut a bit of that faint cabbage taste that Brussels sprouts lovers crave. The creme fraiche on top added a tart creaminesss that counteracted the meatiness of the pistachios and the natural sugars that caramelized on the sprouts’ crispy edges. The apple added a crunch and freshness, and the dish was so great, we had to place a second order.  
 Lamb Meatballs with spiced butternut squash foam, toasted sesame seeds and lebne. 
Fragrant with cinnamon and earthy from the lamb. The butternut squash was zesty, but not spicy-hot, and was reminiscent of Moroccan cooking – sweet and savory at the same time. Lebne is a very thick Middle Eastern yogurt-cheese hybrid, and what goes better with meat than dairy?
Don’t tell my rabbi I just said that. 
Braised Short Rib of Beef with Beet-Barbaresco taglierini, fresh grated horseradish.
Standout dish of the night. Beef with fresh horseradish shavings…so simple yet so brilliant! How many times have you had creamed horseradish with prime rib? This horseradish – fresh and hot enough to clear your nasal passages – mixed with the melting, soft, unctuous short ribs, which were straightforward and beefy as they 
should be. The horseradish, grated finely enough to not be jarring to the palate, sliced straight through the fattiness of the beef, with a pleasant heat. The pasta was toothsome, and though the flavor of the noodle was not not discernible, it provided a good background to a GREAT main dish. 
 Seared Sea Scallops with Mangalitsa ham, lemon thyme dressing and pumpkinseed oil.
Mangalitsa ham comes from pigs who are descended from wild boars. Their name comes from a Serbian word, meaning “hog with a lot of lard.” Already, it sounds beautiful, right? Clearly, it was delicious with the scallop. The scallop was a substantial one, thickly crusted on the outside, and buttery rich within. Not an earth shattering combination, but pork and shellfish are always a winner. 
Once again…don’t tell my rabbi. 
Pulled Pork Empanadas with sweet and spicy cilantro dipping sauce. 
Such an atrocious picture for such a wonderful dish. Flaky dough that was so multi layered and rich that it HAD to have been made with lard. Succulent porky insides that were flecked with red pepper. Cilantro sauce that was at first grassy and bright, then became earthy and finally hit me with a spice so fruity and intense that it reminded me of Venezuelan hot sauce. This is a must get. 
Braised Octopus, Carrot and Daikon Salad with citrus cumin dressing, cilantro.
The octopus had no hint of seafood about it – to the point where I wouldn’t have even known it was octopus if I hadn’t seen the menu. It was toothsome but not at all rubbery, and absorbed the warming, aromatic flavors of the cumin and the cilantro. The vegetables provided a crisp counterpart to the meaty octopus, and this dish is a great one for someone new to octopus. 
Squid Ink Paella mixed shellfish, preserved lemon, guindillas peppers and scallions.
I had never had squid ink paella before, and I think that maybe it makes the rice cremy? In any case, this was some of the creamiest rice I have ever had at a restaurant, without any mushiness or actual cream used in the
 recipe. The gentle brininess of the shellfish made the dish pleasantly salty, and the tender cockles, plump
 mussels and delightfully crunchy calamari tentacles made the dish one I would order again and again. Not overly seasoned with saffron or salt, the star of this was the creamy texture of the rice, even over the seafood. 

And the star of the meal? That’s impossible to say. Yes, I loved the short ribs the most, but there is no one dish that we would not have ordered again. The service was attentive and quick, the wine list was reasonably priced, and the food was unique and totally delicious. The only thing I would say is that this is not the place to come if you have a huge appetite or a small wallet. You can eat a bit here relatively cheaply or eat a lot here for a relatively large amount of money. 
Just dont’ forget that you won’t be eating it all. Remember…I expect you to share.
Alta on Urbanspoon

Comments

  1. JustinM says:

    I would totally share my meatballs with you. Actually, I would share everything, but if we go here we are probably going to need two orders of pulled pork empanadas. I thought I'd had pulled pork in every way imaginable, but I'm not sure I've ever had those.

  2. Sarah says:

    The short ribs were phenomenal.

  3. ldyginger says:

    Short ribs def phenom.

  4. LG says:

    Thank you for sharing your meatballs AND birthday dinner with me. A tastefully delicous evening, xo!

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