Socarrat Paella Bar – The Good Stuff is Burned

After the delicious paella at Alta, my interest in the traditional Spanish dish was peaked. Why have I never really explored this type of food before? It’s rice. It’s meat. What’s not to love?
To that end, I headed to Socarrat Paella Bar. This restaurant, with 2 NYC locations, mainly focused on paella. You can choose from variety of different paellas, as well as assorted tapas. 
The restaurant – for which you will definitely want reservations – features one long, thin table where you sit with your dining partner. This would be very hard to do with more than 4 people. It is also a little crowded and the stools have no backs – doesn’t bother me, just FYI. Though there are some tables in the adjoining wine bar…come on, people! Have some fun here! Suck it up and sit at the long paella bar. Half the fun is seeing what the people next to you are eating.
The paellas are all made to order, so the server suggests you order a few tapas to start the meal with while you wait the 25 minutes or so for the paella. 
Pan Tomaca – Toast, Tomato, Olive Oil, Garlic, Sherry Vinegar. 
Also known as Pan Con Tomate, this is often one of my favorite dishes in a tapas restaurant. Sadly, this just didn’t cut it for me – the bread was too fresh, rendering it a bit soggy. You really want a crusty, tough piece of bread that can stand up to juicy tomatoes and vibrant garlic. There was not enough salt or garlic, leaving the tomatoes flat tasting and a bit acidic. It was not a fortuitous start to the meal. 
Tortilla – Egg and Potato Omelette
Luckily, this picked things up. If you have never had a Spanish tortilla, you might be expecting a round flatbread made of flour or corn – the thing that you get with a plate of fajitas. Not so. A Spanish tortilla is a light but rich omelette filled with slivers of tender potatoes and sharp onions, served with a garlicky mayonnaise. Mayonnaise on top of eggs. Possibly the most delicious experience ever. This tortilla was perfection  -thick but incredibly light, with the onions and potatoes breaking up the fluffy texture of the egg. 
Meat Paella with Duck, Pork, Chicken and Chorizo
The decision on which Paella to order was a difficult one, but we really wanted to try the chorizo, and this is the only paella on the menu with chorizo in it. The paella arrived in a sizable pan (minimum order is for 2), which was set in front of us. 5 minutes after the server set it down, she came back and scraped up the bottom of the pan, so we could get the crunchy bits of rice(called the socarrat -see how they did that?) from the bottom of the pan. 
Much like bibimbap, the crunchy, chargrilled bits of rice were my favorite part. Adding a slightly bitter, crunchy, caramelized texture to the rice, it took the dish from great to unmissable. I have to be honest and say that I couldn’t really detect the pork, chicken or duck from one another. All the meat was in small , tender chunks, having an extremely hearty, earthy taste. It kind of had the best of all worlds – the proteins seemed to pick up the gentle subtlety of the chicken, the gaminess of the duck and the unctuous fat of the pork. It was basically a delicious barnyard. The chorizo was a salty, garlicky, fatty-crunchy delight. The rice was glistening in fat but not at ALL greasy – just the perfect marriage of starch and fat. It was a bit salty, and next time I would ask for it with less salt, but it wasn’t salty enough to ruin the dish. 
I mean, if it was…would we have scraped the dish clean with our forks and fought over the last of the socarrat?
This meal hit the Paella-craving spot! A fun atmosphere, more than reasonable prices and totally delicious food made for a great date night spot or dinner out with friends. Just make sure that you tell your dining partner that the stuff on the bottom of the paella pan is burned…that way, you can eat the socarrat all by yourself.
Socarrat Paella Bar on Urbanspoon


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