Socarrat Paella Bar
Tue Aug 12 2008
Photograph: Jeff Gurwin
Time Out Ratings<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5
Socarrat Paella Bar, an inviting new sliver of a Spanish restaurant in Chelsea, is far too small to meet the nightly demand for its seats. The attractive, no-reservations space (designed by the guys behind Allen & Delancey) features exposed brick, a wall of white clapboard cabinets, and a long and cramped communal table under amber-hued filament fixtures. The place is ideally suited to parties of two (as the liquor license is pending, larger groups should expect a substantial wait without even a glass of cava to help pass the time). The comprehensive selection of classic tapas—as deftly executed and artfully presented as you’ll find in New York—include bite-size garlic-drenched shrimp, spoon-tender cubes of caramelized pork belly on fried potato pedestals, and beautifully grill-marked endive and leeks with a puddle of zingy romesco. But the focus, naturally, is on the namesake rice dish; socarrat is the word for the caramelized crust that forms at the bottom of a shallow paella pan when the dish is cooked right. Perched on wire racks, the iconic dish fills the dining room with its fragrant aromas, cooked to order in meat, seafood and squid ink iterations. The signature land-and-sea Socarrat paella delivers on its promise with a gorgeous crust, toothsome rice and a bounty of delicious morsels—including miniature mussels and clams, slivers of piquillo pepper, and nuggets of chicken and cuttlefish. Desserts, including too-sweet crema catalana and a humdrum warm chocolate cake, are not the restaurant’s strong suit. Instead, conclude the meal with porcine candy—a few precious slices of Iberico ham.