We are only a few days into 2013, and I’m wondering if I didn’t already have potentially one of the best meals of the year last week at a place called La Vara in Cobble Hill. A relatively new restaurant from the couple behind Manhattan’s Txikito, at face value it appears to be merely a sweet little tapas restaurant but there’s a unique geo-culinary fusion being applied in the kitchen that seriously works its ass off. What I’ve read is that La Vara seeks to explore the legacy of food that was created as a result of the Jews and Muslims who shared the Iberian Peninsula with Christians for centuries. What I discovered is that this legacy exploration business is a very, very tasty thing.Courtney and I ordered a whole bunch of plates, and there was honestly nary a clunker in the bunch. If you are fortunate to go, here are just a few of the plates we tried that we deemed must-orders:
- The bowl of crunchy paprika fried chick-peas. Compulsively munchable and a fun starter.
- The lightly fried tiny artichokes with anchovy aioli. This one provoked dueling forks for the final bites.
- The salt cod salad. They cure their own fish in the kitchen and this beautiful plate was bright tasting, citrusy and delicious. Never had a salt cod salad and I had no idea what to expect, and it was way better than I could have imagined. This dish was a total star.
- The suckling pig (a special.) I could have eaten a whole meal of just this… honeyed cracklin’ skin over tender and juicy pork paired with a delicious chimichurri sauce. Loved it.
One other standout worth mentioning; the service at La Vara really shone. The whole staff was so genuinely friendly, we couldn’t get over it. You know you’ve been living in New York City a long time when authentically pleasant service is noteworthy, but here we are. I realize this sounds like a love letter, and maybe we went there on a particularly good night, and it did happen to be my birthday– but this just seemed like a happy restaurant and they are frankly doing everything right. Great food, terrific vibe. Go. Eat there!