This restaurant is closed!
109 Ludlow St (near Delancey St)
City: New York, NY
Phone: (212) 982-5714
Hours: Dinner: Mon-Thur: 6pm - 10:30pm Fri-Sat: 6pm - 11:30pm (Lounge open till 4am) Sun: 6:00pm -10:00pm
Site: Visit the restaurant site
Cuisine: Tapas/Small Plates
2nd Cuisine: Spanish
Area: East Village
Payment: Amex Visa Mastercard Discover JCB
It was toward the end of my dinner at Suba that the conversation took a dramatic turn. We started dinner on a normal enough note. We had been drinking glasses of rosé cava and had already moved onto Txakoli—an effervescent and refreshing summer white from the Basque region and the conversation was going as you might expect from a table of four women. We had canvassed shoes, movies, men, sex, food, chefs, bosses, money, apartments, and vacations, not necessarily in that order. The meal was off to a great start. We had a plate of embutidos—pan con tomat (pressed and grilled bread rubbed with tomato and garlic, glistening with olive oil and sea salt) tagged up with three rosy piles of cured Spanish pork products: Serrano ham, salschichon, and chorizo. We devoured the alternately smoky and spicy sheets of meat with our hands.
A small tapas feast followed. There was the crudo—wide slices of stunning sushi grade red snapper topped with cheek puckering pickled beets, sour plums, candied pine nuts and grains of sea salt ($13). Then came the calamar y sandia ($10)—delicately salted, crepe-battered ringlets of crispy squid matched with pink chunks of juicy watermelon with a pumpkin seed oil vinaigrette ($10). And then the sweet summer tomato salad—luscious wedges of ripe late summer tomatoes steeping in a cool broth of herbaceous celery vinaigrette ($11). And there was also a skewer of lamb meatballs, tasting more Turkish than Spanish, but no matter. They were fantastic, served with a cool and creamy green sauce ($7).
While I was quite impressed with the food at this point, nothing prepared me for the bravas peludas ($9). They’re not your traditional patatas bravas (double-fried wedges of potato with spicy alioli). Nope, these were a step beyond the ordinary. These were sort of an updated, grown up tater tot. Perhaps more accurately, a tater tot on steroids. Let me explain. The core of these “tater tots” is a ball of hot and creamy mashed potato, and its robe is a wrapper fashioned from crunchy golden flakes and fringes of fried potato. The crunchy potato balls are then served piping hot in a spicy alioli (Spanish mayo). Let me suggest that a single-item operation by the name of Bravas Peludas, be opened post haste.
While the tapas we shared to start were really inspired—beautiful clean flavors flirting with cool and crunchy contrasting temperatures and textures—his rice dishes (big enough to share with a table of four), were equally thrilling. The favorite of the night was the Arroz al Horno ($25), a large oval terra cotta cazuela filed up with baked bomba rice that was braised pork shank and belly, morcilla, plump cherries and pine nuts. This was a casserole for the ages—a rich, flavorful bank of rice littered with wonderful meats and luscious fruits and roasted nuts. It was vaguely Persian in spice and sentiment, and I was all over it. We scraped every last crusty bit of rice from the bottom of the pot. If you don’t order this for the table, you’re going to be missing out. Another rice dish that made a statement was the Arroz Cremosa, a lush spring time affair, made from creamy white rice, spring peas and tendrils, and the snappiest snap peas, coated with a sash of brilliant mint pistou and scattered with cubes of crispy pork belly that bring some meaty masculinity to an otherwise positively delicate dish.
The shift in our conversation happened after we finished the rice, after we regained our ability to communicate with words other than “wow,” and “oh my god.” I’m not sure anyone was expecting it, but there it was, the topic none of us had anticipated: Fantasy Football. Yes, I know. You’ve just choked on your coffee. Take a moment. Get a napkin. Clean yourself up. Okay, better now? So, yes. We discussed Fantasy Football and the upcoming draft. I don’t know if I brought it up or if it was in response to Niki’s story about the time her boyfriend ran down her apartment hall during last year’s draft searching frantically for an internet connection when he got kicked off line in the middle of the third round. Luckily, as if by the grace of God, he knocked on the door of someone he sort of knew, who, sensing a brother in need, let him work through the remainder of the draft at his place. Then I chimed in about Craig and his love (obsession) with Fantasy sports and all of a sudden there we were, four women at Suba, talking about Fantasy Football.
Time Out. For those of you who are not acquainted with this “sport,” Fantasy Football comes down to this: A group of 10-20 guys draft a dream team of football players based on their stats (top picks include LaDainian Tomlinson and Steven Jackson) to battle all season long in an imaginary league on Yahoo, ESPN, CBS or some other virtual football field of choice. All season long the first thing these Fantasy Players will be doing every morning and night is checking their player’s points and eyeing their team’s rankings. It’s their nervous tick. I’m into my second season of Fantasy Football with Craig now. (Some people mark relationships by landmarks like first dates, I’ll stick to seasons of Fantasy sports.) But this year, as I told the girls last week, Craig and I came to a pretty serious decision about our relationship. We’ve decided to make a commitment. We’re co-managing a Fantasy Football team together. (Did you spill your coffee again? Sorry.) Anyway, it’s true. We completed the draft this weekend and got Larry Johnson, Cedric Benson, Terrell Owens, Andre Johnson, and Tom Brady. And now, all season long, we’ll be making decisions together on whom to bench and whom to trade. It’s pretty big, people. I mean lots of couples get married, but how many co-manage Fantasy teams? Unprecedented.
Anyway, after dinner, as I was walking home, I got to thinking about a different kind of Fantasy team. What if you were to forget the men in tight pants and instead create a Fantasy Restaurant: follow the same principles of fantasy sports but fill your dream team with the most talented chefs, line cooks, prep guys, managers, waiters, sommeliers, and of course, dishwashers (write to me with your Fantasy restaurant team and I’ll publish them next week.) And I realized that in some way, Yann de Rochefort, who opened Suba five years ago, has been in his very own Fantasy Kitchen league.
Yann, the resident Quarterback, has gone through a couple of star running backs with chefs like Alex Ureña, Louis Bollo, and Chris Santos. And they all produced fine (if different) menus, but they all had other teams on their minds. It wasn’t until he met Seamus Mullen and partnered with him to open Boqueria, their more traditional Catalan restaurant, that he started to really get a running back with vision: someone who could see where the ball needed to go, not just where it was coming from. That sort of shared vision makes all the difference to the scoreboard. Now, I’m now done with this Fantasy Football analogy, don’t worry. (And thanks for indulging me.) But I guess the larger point is that it’s nice to know that sometimes a fantasy turns into quite a fine reality.
Review By: Andrea Strong