It’s sad but true; my biggest issue when going to a restaurant is narrowing down the list of everything on the menu to a single selection. I like to taste it all – chalk it up to #FoodieProblems. This may just be why I’m such a fan of restaurants that feature tapas (or small plates) meant to be shared amongst the table. Topping my list of tapas is Alcalá, a treasure for plate-sharers like me that is tucked away in charming digs on 46th St, just off the corner of 1st Avenue.
After being greeted by Alcalá’s doting staff, sneak a peek at their phenomenal wine list – Spanish wines are amazing and oak-aged Riojas are my personal favorites. Pop that bottle and in no time, you may just find yourself chatting up the resto’s delightful owner, Jesus Martinez. Wherever your conversation leads, make sure you ask him for menu recommendations – his suggestions helped me with my indecision predicament! Although, the answer is usually to order as much as possible – and my two friends and I did just that;
if when I return to Alcalá to do it all over again, I’ve got my order down pat.
First, the rubbed tomato bread, a Spanish classic; it’s a light and refreshing start to the feast that will ensue. Next, the Gambas al Ajillo will thrill shrimp lovers, though you might think twice about sharing the love with anyone YOU love after ingesting the healthy dose of garlic this petite dish packs. The Almejas a la Bilbaína, a satisfying little bowl of delicious little clams, are easy to go splitsies on but feature the full flavor of a white Rioja wine sauce, combined with garlic and fresh parsley.
Canelones de Espinacas
Take a brief breather, as we did, and then get ready for Round Two, which, if done right, should be dedicated to carbs. For the Canelones de Espinacas, dumpling-thin sheets of pasta are wrapped around a surprisingly light mixture of shrimp and spinach, plated in a pool of tomato sauce and then doused with Béchamel sauce. An off-the-menu dish followed – just ask for the lightly fried potatoes with dijon mustard+ketchup/mayo drizzle – it tastes even better than it looks (and a whole lot better than it sounds) – trust me, it’s remarkable.
The main meal event is an order that I hope goes without saying: you’re at a Spanish restaurant, you order Paella!!! The Paella de Mariscos is pure pescatarian delight; rice is simmered to perfection in a seafood stock and topped with an array of well-seasoned shellfish and prawns. This dish is the epitome of Spanish cuisine and dinner at Alcalá certainly embodies all the elements of my ideal tapas-style meal.