WHO TO TAKE: YOUR FRIEND AFTER THE THEATER OR SOMEONE WHO APPRECIATES ARTFUL BASQUE CUISINE
My friend Mary was in from out of town, so I knew we had to pick a special spot to meet. By coincidence, she was staying at the Luma hotel, which happened to house Ortzi, a restaurant whose chef’s name I am very familiar with. Having designed Jose Garces two cookbooks allowed me to become very familiar with his style and dishes. (check them out if you are looking for exemplary and authentic Latin cuisine: The Latin Road Home and Latin Evolution.) I got to do a couple of photo shoots down in Philadelphia at his popular restaurants, and got to experience a true talent first-hand, with dishes that honor, yet elevate Latin cuisines.
(It’s a shame that he could not hold onto his restaurant empire, but the food remains spectacular.)
The room is average size, the tables offer room—which is a good thing when you are sharing lots of plates. It has a modern, clean aesthetic, but with still lots of warmth. Nice high ceilings, always a plus.
(seen in the photo at the top of this post) Roasted Foie Gras sits on a little bit of Spanish french toast, and is served with peaches, a patxaran syrup, and a touch of hazelnut praline. Right, the view from our corner table.
I always find a crudo on the menu hard to resist, in this case we tried a duo. Hamachi Crudo came dressed with piquillo pepper and a saffron emulsion. Right, slices of Toro (tuna belly) topped with arbequina olive oil and a dollop of caviar.
Fresh favas are always a treat to discover on a menu. Here the Fava Bean Salad came with an interesting mix of ingredients: feta, meyer lemon, gordal olives, and smoked egg yolk. We got two of these. The amuse, I believe, was a quince jam on toast.
Brocheta De Presa Ibérico: pork skewers, pickled green tomato, chicharrones, sherry gastrique. These were great but would have liked a much larger portion.
These two dishes were more substantial: Vieiras (diver scallops) mixed with corn espuma, serrano ham, pickled ramps, and oregano. Right, the Paella Valenciana had a bevy of shellfish to savor: red prawns, mussels, and calamari, in a bomba rice with marcona almond picada. Both of these were excellent.
We were treated to a trio of desserts, oh my! Pastel Vasco Basque-style Custard Tart with apricot, olive oil, and pistachio cream. Right, the Copa Caramel milk chocolate cream, caramel espuma, pedro ximénez, orange and sea salt.
Dessert #3 featured Cuajada (milk curd) goat cheese cream with bites of almond cake, red wine caramel, and roasted cherries. Right, glad you came into town, Mary!
Ortzi at the Luma Hotel, 120 W 41st St (betw 6th Ave/Broadway)