Pamplona, November 6, 2007
Went to the Taste of BlackBerry event tonight - basically a gathering of Research in Motion (RIM) users/developers - and had the luck of being invited to dinner by some of the fine folks who work for Handmark - and the developer's of its PocketExpress.
When asked for a suggestion on a place to eat, we (after busting out our ZAGAT TO GOs on our BlackBerries) stayed nearby to the event and checked out Pamplona, Alex Urena's latest restaurant concept in the same space that was Urena. I had a slightly better than good, not quite great dining experience at Urena several months back and was excited to see how he'd handle a more casual concept.
Fortunately, as Frank Bruni would agree the following morning in his New York Times review of the restaurant, the makeover was in fact very good - worthy of 2 stars from the Bruni.
Our generous host, Steve, ordered quite a bit of food for the table. We started with a pitcher of sangria, but I think we'd all agree that it was awful. In fact, it was bitter. We quickly switched to two different (and unknown to me) Spanish red wines, which was a much better route to take.
Pretty much all of the tapas items we had were good, which included the Buñuelos (De Queso iberico, manchego cheese and cider fritter, $5), Pincho De Chorizo Y Gambas (fresh chorizo and shrimp skewer over goat cheese toast, $4), Albondigas (meatballs eggplant, sherry vizcaina sauce, $6), Bocadillo De Jamon (jamon serrano, iberico cheese, $6) and some Blue Point oysters, $12.
We shared all of the main dishes as well including the best dish of the night, Cochinillo (confit suckling pig, chestnuts puree, swiss chard, celery root gratin, $35), Paella Mar Y Montaña (braised rabbit, fresh chorizo, squid, mussels, shrimp, bomba rice, $30), 16+oz Chuleton rib eye steak (patatas bravas, onion vizcaina, $38), Ensalada De Pollo (stuffed chicken - baby greens, jamon serrano, morcilla, $12), and the Atun Y Sopresada (cured tuna sliced thin, sopresada aioli, $12).
The only problem with this restaurant, well, actually two, is that it's still not in a location you might normally find yourself (despite the fact that I recently moved from the neighborhood) and isn't a terribly exciting restaurant. I'm not alone when I say that I think if Chef Urena can find a new location for his cooking, I think he will really take off.