TAPAS DON'T PREACH

                October  21, 2013

THE HUNGER JAMES OFFICIAL RATING:

First off, I want to apologize for the title of this entry. As it turns out, there aren’t many words that rhyme with “tapas” and I am too tired to think of a creative pun. (Mondays, am I right?)

 

This past weekend is summarized by Netflix, bed by ten, and self-loathing, although I did have one reason to get out of bed, shower, and leave my apartment – dinner in the city!

 

One of my favorite things to do is go out to dinner with a group of friends. Sitting at a long table, wearing my best button-down, and enjoying a meal is a perfect way to spend an evening. Kathryn was Saturdays “event planner” and made reservations at a little tapas restaurant in the East Village called “The Barrel”. (10 Stuyvesant St)

We had a group of about twelve; some people I knew and some I didn’t. It was the perfect place to catch-up with old friends and an opportunity to make new ones. Since the menu is all tapas (a variety of Spanish appetizers, either hot or cold), sharing food with the table was the best and easiest way to try a little bit of everything on the menu.

 

Luckily, I sat across from Rebecca, the other foodie of the group. We read through the menu like it was the last twelve pages of the final Harry Potter book. Not wanting to rack up a huge bill (or be the ones who order 11 different things) we decided that 4 tapas would be enough to feed us. And if we were still hungry, we would either order more or help ourselves to the tables’ leftovers.

 

The menu was actually one of the better that I’ve seen at a tapas restaurant. One thing I liked was everything was written in English. None of that “Boquerones” or “Puntillitas” crap. At this place, we knew what we were getting. The other thing I liked was the menu was broad and had a something for everyone, no matter if you were kosher or vegan.

When the waitress approached us for our order, we decided on: the Beet & Goat Cheese Salad, Patatas Bravas, Pulled Chicken, and 4 Cheese Macaroni. Pretty good choices, huh? Once our order was in, we sat back, relaxed, drank wine and waited.

 

The first dish to arrive was the Beet & Goat cheese salad. I know what you’re thinking, “James, a salad? Really?” Yes, a salad, but the only reason I agreed to this was because of the goat cheese. And boy did this salad deliver on the cheese front.

The Beet & Goat Cheese salad was served with baby spinach, arugula, and tomatoes all combined in a balsamic vinaigrette topped with fresh beets and 2 fried goat cheese wheels. Yeah, the goat cheese was fried. Now, when Rebecca asked if this salad was okay, I wasn’t really paying attention and said “Sure, why not” without realizing what a beet actually is. After eating the salad I realized one thing: I don’t like beets. But, all in all, it was a great salad to begin the meal.

Next, we received the final three entrees of our meal,

the patatas bravas, pulled chicken, and the macaroni

and cheese.


Patatas Bravas are my most favorite thing to order at a tapas restaurant, and the ones at The Barrel did not disappoint. Patatas Bravas are chopped potatoes, lightly fried and topped with a chili aioli sauce. If you closed your eyes, they tasted exactly like Outback Steakhouse cheese fries.

The Pulled Chicken was probably my least favorite dish of the night. While it wasn’t terrible, it just was unmemorable and bland. Basically it was pulled grilled chicken, marinated in store-bought salsa, accompanied with 9 tortilla chips. I should have spoken up and demanded the steak frites instead.

 

Lastly, and certainly not leastly, the macaroni and cheese. Now, if you’ve read my previous blog (or have been in a room with me for longer than 6 minutes) you understand my love and devotion to M&C. I travel far and wide (or wherever the NJ Transit takes me) to find delicious and inventive macaroni and cheese. So, whenever I go to a new restaurant and M&C is on the menu, it’s blasphemous for me not to order at least one.

The 4 Cheese Macaroni was topped with breadcrumbs and baked in the oven, the best way – although, it reminded me of a Crème Brule (I’m a poet and didn’t even know it). Once you broke the skin of the top, the cheese mixture underneath was a little watery and flavorless. It was good, but I did see some room for improvement.

 

Overall, the night was a success. I got to share food, wine, and stories with great friends. I recommend The Barrel to anyone and everyone. From date night to celebrating a birthday, this restaurant serves up a great experience.