I love Spanish food, especially Tapas and Paella. And guess what, so does my hubby and my mother. While my mother was visiting us, she wanted to get some good paella. Who can blame her? There has been this Paella Bar that I have been wanting to go to, so we decided to go during the week day lunch, when it should be rather slow.
We arrived to their Chelsea location not too long after they opened for lunch. We were looking at their menu right outside, and one of the staffs came out and invited us in. Since we had our heart set on paella, and menu looked good, so we said why not. There was not a single customer there, very slow as expected on Wednesday before noon. The inside was very narrow and long, and have window at the front entrance (the first photo below) and all the way back (second photo below). The rest was lit with rather dimmed lights, creating cozy, romantic, and somewhat warm atmosphere. I liked how the interior had that rustic, antique look to it with red brick wall and dark furniture.
They have a long bar on the right of the entrance, then dining area to the back. They had some larger size tables for party of six closer to the bar, and some smaller sized table all the way back. I would say party of four or more for Tapas would be more normal than party of two, so that made sense that they had more large-sized tables.
And for those who wants to have more of a “communal” tapas or paella experience, they do have another room behind the red brick wall. In this room, they have a looooong communal tabel with bar stools all the way down. Great for a big party or gathering. If you look at the space as a whole, it might make better sense to take down the brick wall and make it into larger room. But, I think they are keeping it the way it is so that guests can have the option to have more private functions…? (They do host events there)
They brought complimentary bread with olive oil quickly. The bread and olive oil were pretty good, always a nice start to the lunch. They do offer three course lunch prix-fixe for $25, which includes paella. This was very attractive, until we heard that the paella would be chicken and veggie kind. We wanted to have seafood paella, so we decided not to get the prix fixe.
We heard that the paella is not that huge in portion, so we decided to order a sandwich in addition to paella. We chose Steak Sandwich ($14), which comes with grilled hanger steak, romaine lettuce, chipotle aioli, and caramelized onions. They also came with salad and home fries. The sandwich was bigger than we expected. The steak was cooked really well, soft, juicy, and packed with flavor. I didn’t have too much of expectation for the sandwich, but it turned out pretty great. The salad was very fresh, and potatoes were delicious. The jus from the steak soaked into the bread and potato, my taste buds had celebration in my mouth with each bite. Great quality, portion and value.
Now, the paella. They have eight kinds of paella to choose from. Yes, I said it right, EIGHT!!!! No wonder they call themselves the “Paella Bar” with that many selection. They have one with everything, one with squid ink, one with beef, one with lobster, and so on and so on. They also have Caldoso, which is a soupy paella if you rather have that. We went with Pescados y Mariscos ($26), which comes with shrimp, scallops, squid, mussels, cockles, white fish, and English peas. It was brought to our table in a piping hot pan, which was awesome. They were right about the amount, it was smaller portion than I thought it would be. They do not do mountain of paella, but they do quality paella. And after all, I do prefer quality over quantity any day. Our waitress said that she will come back to help us with the crispy rice on the bottom later. It did have generous amount of shellfish and seafood on it, and the rice was really tasty as well. After one bite, I could see why they are one of the most popular paella spot in the city. The rice was cooked just right, fluffy but juicy with broth, all the seafood and shellfish were packed with flavor, and I loved the little peas, providing pop of vibrant little green to the mix.
When we were getting to the bottom of the pan, the waitress came back as promised, and scraped off all the crispy rice on the bottom for us. We always loved the little burned rice on the bottom, so we were excited… And it was so delicious!!! Well, they better be delicious, since they are named after it. The name Socarrat is, indeed, the crispy rice that forms on the bottom of the pan. This only happens when the paella is cooked to perfection from what I hear. And they do provide wonderful Socarrat to all of their guests who order paella. Awesome!
After the amazing meal, we decided to push our luck with a dessert and coffee. We wanted something light, but something more than just ice cream. We settled on Flan ($8), and Americano ($3.75).
The flan is made with condensed milk, passion fruit cream, and pistachio crumbs. I was disappointed with it came to our table, since it was rather small. For $8, I was thinking it will be a good sized portion. But then, after one bite, I was reminded that they are about quality over quantity here. It was a pretty darn good flan! Rich, velvety, thick, sweet, and just melt in your mouth… And the simple coffee was pretty good too. Strong, wonderful aroma, and went great with the flan.
They have one bathroom in each dining room, so either room you are in, they will be a bathroom there for you, all the way in the back. It was roomy, clean, and carrying that rustic, antique feel in the inside as well. It is uni-sex, so if one is occupied (and if the restaurant is not busy at all), you could go to the other room and use the bathroom too.
They have total of three locations; Nolita, Midtown West, and Chelsea which was the very first location to open in 2008. I love their business card of each locations, it is made into playing cards! And since the Chelsea location is the oldest, it gets the King card. How creative, artistic, and unique way to advertise their business!
So, next time you have a craving for paella, go visit one of these Socarrat Paella Bar, and don’t forget to have your Socarrat on the bottom of the pan, it is the best part!
Socarrat Paella Bar @ Chelsea – 259 W 19th St, New York, NY 1001