Very Good Dinner at Salinas (NYC)
Salinas is a tapas restaurant in Chelsea, conveniently located a few blocks north of Chelsea Market, that actually serves very good Spanish fare. The type of Spanish cuisine Chef Luis Bollo cooks is trendy but not much of the molecular or modernist techniques involved. It’s real cooking that explores Galician-style Spanish food and most of the dishes we had were very good and some were excellent.
When we entered to the bar area, it’s a tight space and not exactly the most appealing place to hang around despite of being surrounded by the artsy or cool people. But once we entered to the covered courtyard dining space with a retractable glass roof, it’s a very cozy, casual space that appeals to the people on dates to groups who want to hang out for dinner after work.
We started off with some plates of Serrano ham, colorful cauliflower, and lamb croquetas and cocktails (my friend had a bit too sweet bourbon and malt whiskey based Quemar La Casa and I had a nicely balanced La Herribida, a sherry-based cocktail). The Serrano is always a good starter for any Spanish meal, moderately fatty and a nice hit of salt. The cauliflower is pretty to look at and it tasted good with the pimentón flecked yogurt. The stewed lamb croquetas were fine snacks but I found the textures comes close to a popular Dutch snack bitterballen, simple textures of thin crisp crust from the frying and a very smooth filling and not too much flavor complexity.
Pulpo con Palomitas is a baby octopus dish covered spicy pepper squid ink and rolled in crushed popcorn served with a side of corn nuts and aioli. The octopus itself was very good. Tender, nice salinity from the squid ink. I don’t think the popcorn was a necessary addition but it added some toothsome texture.
The morcilla blood sausage is a gorgeous dish both in taste and presentation. The blood sausage was well spiced, wasn’t too minerally or bloody and the texture was perfect (e.g. not mushy). The beautifully poached organic egg, Albariño, guindilla pepper, parsley broth added layers of flavors to this dish. The clams felt like it should be a separate dish. It’s perfectly cooked and seasoned but it doesn’t seem to fit. Otherwise, this dish was one of our favorites of the night.
The seasonal and special of the evening was the soft shelled crab. It was a beautifully fried whole crab, split in half and plated with a salad-like side of fried Marcona almonds, herbs, and red onions to lighten up this dish and add complexity.
Ventresca al oloroso was the most astounding dish we’ve had all night. This was a grilled tuna belly that’s almost completely cooked through plated with fennel salad and espelette. It’s rare to see tuna belly cooked beyond a quick sear but the chef and his crew had the guts to cook it about eighty-percent through yielding to a firm but still unctuous tuna with a haunting smoky flavor and loads of umami made me feel like I’m eating a meaty version of very high grade dried bonito.
The pancetta mar y montaña was a fine dish. Since we ate the tuna belly dish before this pork belly dish, we ended up liking the pork instead of loving it (the smoke on the tuna was pretty powerful in a great way). The pork belly was cooked until it’s fork tender but the flavors of kabocha, baby shrimp and spicy pumpkin seeds were good, added some velvety creaminess and subtly enhancing the sweetness of the pork.
The brut a la plancha, lamb brown rice cake, merguez, pine nuts, yellow beet puree, and Idiazabal cheese was a great rice dish. The rice cake was cooked beautifully and I adored the crispy crust. Lots of flavors in with the merguez sausage, pine nuts and Idiazabal cheese. The beet puree acted as a tasty, sweet earthy sauce to the rice.
We finished our meal with the chocolate y pistachios. The flourless chocolate cake was a good version of a molten chocolate cake and I liked the chocolate tuile cookie on top for texture. The pistachio gelato covered with crushed pistachios was very good as well. (Personally, after eating all of the savory courses prior to this dessert, a scoop of good ice cream make me perfectly content.)
136 9th Avenue
New York, NY 10011
Phone: (212) 776-1990