My friend Wendy is a fabulous foodie who also knows her way around a kitchen. If she says a restaurant is good, you can probably take her word for it. I reached out to her for suggestions for Jen’s visit because Jen wanted to be sure to check out the hottest spot on the NYC restaurant scene and Wendy would likely know exactly what that would be. Estela received her highest recommendation so we booked it right away.
Inspiration comes from all over the place, but I would say the small plates skew Italian/Mediterranean. Everything we had was fabulous, including the “throwaway” items you order just so you have something to snack on while you wait for the real food to arrive. Case in point: the olives. If you at all like olives, order these. Even if you’re not an olive fan, try to find someone at the table who is because the olive oil they are sitting in is truly amazing. They infuse it with orange, fennel seeds, clove, and who knows what else. Just make sure you order it and request some bread for dipping. We also ordered the salami which arrived in olive oil and a little salt instead of just being piled on a plate. I plan to serve my charcuterie like this in the future. The oil and salt helped bring out the flavor of the meat.
I have to first stop and compliment Estela on the sharability of their menu items. If you bill yourself as a small plates restaurant, don’t make it difficult to have a communal dining experience. I can’t stand when small plates come out with three pieces when most people dine in groups of four. The portions were large enough for everyone to feel like they got a real taste of each dish.
I’m a sucker for grilled octopus and loved how creamy the accompanying potatoes were, but it was the pimentón that really set it off. The meat on the lamb ribs fell off the bone as I picked it up and it had a great crust. There are a couple of plates that are just a bit larger and are priced as full entrées, like the pork with wheat berries, pear, and onion. This is where the portion felt a little small, but the pork was cooked so perfectly that I forgot about it. My absolute favorite dish of the evening was the mussels escabeche on toast. The mussels were basically pickled and the toast was sitting in a pool of green oil that the chef likes to incorporate into many of his dishes. The toast soaked up the herbacious oil but still maintained its structure. I’ve never had anything like it. I need to have it again. For dessert we got a coffee and chocolate panna cotta that was a bit unforgettable and a parsnip ice cream that was sort of like a reverse baked alaska. The ice cream surrounded a chocolate caramel and when you took a bite you got a mix of temperatures and textures that got me – in a good way.