I love the new trend of specialty restaurants: places that only serve mac & cheese, meatballs, and now a paella restaurant. Socarrat Paella is a tiny Chelsea restaurant with one looong table seating about 26 people. They don’t take reservations, but the attached Socarrat Bar is a great place to wait with a glass of sangria while munching on some tapas.
We started with a few items off the tapas menu: fried artichokes, roasted pepper stuffed with a creamy cod mixture, pan tomaca (toast topped with tomato and garlic), and hanger steak that had been marinating in something magical. Then it was onto the main event: the paella. We ordered two for our group of three, which was most certainly too much, but with a list of eight paellas, we found it impossible to narrow it down to just one. We picked a vegetarian one (filled with snow peas, artichokes, beans, mushrooms, zucchini, and tomato) and [my preferred] meat option (packed with pork, chicken, duck, chorizo, and mushroom sofrito). They also have fish/shellfish, meat/fish combo, and rabbit/duck versions.
When the waitress set down our plates, they gave us the rules (Rule #1 of paella club: you don’t talk about paella club): let the dish sit for two minutes before digging in, when serving, only take from the top so the bottom continues to cook in the special paella pan, and when you get to the bottom, scrape the now crunchy rice dish for a new flavor. This crunchy, carmelized rice is called the socarrat and is what separates paella from a normal rice dish.
We couldn’t leave without a little dessert. We tried the vanilla flan and a dish with a name I can’t remember but that was described as a Catalan cheesecake. It tasted like creamy cinnamon toast crunch flavored pudding with crème anglaise on top. Yum.
The food was delicious and the service just as wonderful. The waitresses were very smiley and bent over backwards to scrape the socarrat for us. Hint to all the fellas: if you want to take a gal to a cute date place and don’t mind some sharing, I guarantee this one will be a hit.