When I was in high school, the closest thing that I did that made me feel like a cool/grown-up/classy/precursor-to-hipster/New York lady was have dinner with my friends in the Lower East Side repeatedly. Specifically, at the tapas restaurant 1492. It left a weird imprint on my soul that made me yearn for it, now, more than four years later.
The restaurant's storefront is almost like a hole in the wall. When you first walk in, a mirror hanging diagonally from the ceiling over the bar gives you a really trippy view. There are small, cozy tables all the way through the restaurant and even in a quaint garden courtyard inside. When I came once for a friend's birthday, we sat in the garden and sipped virgin mojitos under the summer sky and beneath a string of twinkling lights. I felt so fancy! This most recent visit, we went on a Monday evening and I'm sad to say we were the only patrons in the restaurant. We sat at a small table inside and shared a meal over romantic candlelight.
Tapas! We had the fried calamari, Spanish omelette, albondigas (Spanish meatballs), and Catalonian pizza. 1492 also serves paellas and bigger entrees like steak. In fact, we once shared the black paella - seafood paella darkened with squid ink! I wasn't as daring then, so I only chanced a small mouthful, but I remember it being somewhat bitter, but not otherwise very different. Honestly, everything on the menu sounded delicious and it would probably be hard to go wrong (except...cockroach-looking stuffed dates like the ones at Eukzadi...).
The calamari was a much smaller portion than I remember it being, but it was delicious. The batter was lighter in color than most other calamari we've had lately. The calamari itself was toothsome. The dipping sauce it came with was the same one I'd had years ago, a lemon mayonnaise that was very light and tangy.
The Spanish omelette was like a quiche. Filled with chunks of potato and onion, the torta was, I would classify, refreshing and a calming break from other types of food that might be deep fried or heavily seasoned.
The albondigas were probably the highlight of the meal. The plate arrived with three hefty-sized meatballs in a tomato sauce flecked with peas. The meatballs were well-spiced and had a really amazing flavor. The tomato sauce was acidic and paired with the meatballs very well. I can't put my finger on it, but this was definitely different from the Italian take on meatballs and tomato sauce.
Finally, we had the Catalonian pizza, which I've never heard of before. The 'pizza' had piping hot tomatoes, chorizo, and cheese atop a crispy flatbread. I thought this was a really successful dish, though I had issues with two things. First, the tomatoes were SO hot compared to the rest of the ingredients. How?! Did they pluck the tomatoes from the fiery pits of hell? More likely the stuck it under a broiler or something, but it was almost painful to have the juicy tomato chunks burst in my mouth. Second, the chorizo slices atop the flatbread refused to stay on the flatbread; if I took a partial bite of chorizo, the whole thing would be dragged off the flatbread and into my mouth at once, so the rest of my slice became just a tomato-cheese flatbread. I really did love the bread, though. It soaked up the flavors of the spicy chorizo, the mellow cheese, and the boiling-hot tomato juice and still maintained a very crispy texture.
Oh, I almost forgot. We shared a glass of sangria! Drinks! On a Monday night!? How adventurous of us. Besides an adventure to the Bacardi factory in Puerto Rico, we are not really drinking people. But I think we felt bad for them, being the only two people eating there at that time...and plus, we had a Groupon. So we sprung for a glass of red wine sangria. Their sangria is the best I'd ever had (though that's not hard to achieve, since, again, I don't drink much): it was not too wine-y but had this fun bubbly texture as though they mixed in some club soda. I asked the waitress what went into the sangria and though she responded in heavily-accented English of which I did not understand a single word, I nodded and politely declined a second glass.
Could probably use a nice glass of sangria to keep me company now...