Did I mention I love NYC?
This past year I have spent quite some time in Manhattan, over a few trips, which made me fell in love with NYC over again. I still love London, and I prefer it to New York to a certain extent. I had some amazing dinners in the Big Smoke in the past couple of years, and I am thinking about The Clove Club, the new Andina wave of Peruvian restaurants, Lyles. But the energy I feel whenever I land in New York is contagious. And I feel at home. The dining scene is so vibrant, New York chefs are much more fearless than their British counterpart.
When I read on their website that Estela is a beverage-driven restaurant I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of food. Located, almost hidden, behind a blank door in Nolita, furnished in dark wood, its small dining room is dark as per NYC norm. The menu, designed by chef Ignacio Mattos (ex Il Buco), features a variety of small plates with Mediterranean influences intended for sharing. Ignacio’s cooking philosophy could be summarised as ‘three strong ingredients with some invisible ingredients that magically round out the flavours’.
I visited Estela with friends on a chilly (for NYC standard) July evening. We were accommodated at the very end of the tiny dining room, and we were all quite hungry – read starving. Once seated, we quickly browsed the short menu and ordered a selection of the small dishes to share.
Burrata with salsa verde and charred bread; the most delicious and indulgent burrata I had in a long while. Perfectly paired with the rich yet fresh and light salsa verde.
Beef tartare with sunchoke; juicy, perfectly seasoned, with deliciously crispy capers – and I am not a fan of capers usually.
Fluke with kohlrabi and avocado; a cevichesque interpretation of the fluke.
Beef with eggplant, leeks and Taleggio: deliciously charred leeks and eggplants complementing the slightly more pungent flavour of Taleggio, and a perfect medium rare beef.
Ricotta dumplings with mushrooms and pecorino sardo: soft and fluffy ricotta balls in an addictive mushroom and pecorino thick broth.
Mahi Mahi with tomatoes, pole beans and ajo blanco
A fresh Strawberry and rhubarb sorbet served with crumbled meringue.
Pannacotta with vinegar and honey; a bold choice, not a crowd pleaser dessert. Interesting twist with the vinegar and honey sauce that perfectly harmonises the richness of pannacotta.
Parsnip ice cream with chocolate caramel and sesame; this strange sounding dessert, was incredibly addictive, to the point we ordered a second one.
I loved Estela, for the vibe but mostly for the surprise that comes with each dish. As soon as you read the menu, with mostly familiar and a few less familiar ingredients, you create your very own mental representation of what you are going to eat. Then the dish arrives in front of you… and it’s not quite what it seems, only hundred times more interesting, and delicious.
Go if you are in NYC!