Chow: La Vara Explores Hidden Side Of Spanish Tapas
A unique new tapas bar that specializes in a sometimes forgotten period in Spanish cuisine is warming up the crowds in Brooklyn. Chow.com contributing editor Pervaiz Shallwani filed the following report.
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With Spanish tapas spots a fixture in the city, it can be hard to distinguish one experience from the next.
At La Vara, a tiny, modern looking restaurant on a quiet stretch of brownstone Brooklyn, husband and wife team Alex Raij and Eder Montero show there is so much of Spain left to explore.
Here, the two Spanish food scholars have used their encyclopedic knowledge to curate a menu that takes its cues from a 700-year stretch of history when it’s largely believed Moors, Jews and Christians lived in harmony in Spain.
From there, they add modern touches like a love for fresh, local produce, cheese and seaweed.
Meat like the suckling pig is good, but it’s the vegetables and seafood that leave the biggest impression.
Ribbons of meaty calamari are bathed in a refreshing almond gazpacho.
Comforting Valencian-style noodle paella is tossed with a shellfish medley of shrimp, squid and clams.
Not to be missed is a fried eggplant that rivals any fried potato. The crisp, but tender nuggets are served over a creamy mix of cheeses -- buttery tetilla and crescenza -- drizzled with honey and dusted with floral nigella seeds. Each bite is crisp, sweet, rich and appropriately seasonal.
Share the meal with a bottle of young and funky Tombu and save room the subtle Galician almond cake married perfectly with red wine-braised cherries. Thankfully, not all Spanish tapas are created equal.
La Vara is located at 268 Clinton St. in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn.
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