I am fortunate enough to have lots of really, really great friends. And, while I do not get the chance to see all of them very often, it makes our reunions (and meals) all the more exciting for me. A few weeks back I set aside Friday, February 20th for a “date night” with my friend, Siobhan. I met Siobhan probably about 5 years ago, during a fieldwork (kind of like a full-time internship) during occupational therapy school at Staten Island University Hospital. We became quick friends, and stayed close ever since. A few years back, Siobhan moved to Manhattan, where she works, and I’ve only gotten to see or hang out with her a handful of times. But it’s always special, and always so much fun. She let me choose our restaurant destination, and after hearing and seeing a lot about Estela on social media and all over the foodie world, that’s what I went with.
We made a last minute 5:30 reservation, which was the only time available when I called the day before, and arrived at about 5:15. This was one of those “sub-arctic,” “you could get frostbite in under 5 minutes if you’re outside,” “real feel of -15 degrees,” kind of days, so I was really happy that the restaurant management let us come in and sit at the bar, even though they weren’t open yet, while they finished up their team meeting. A few minutes later, we were greeted by a friendly bartender and given the drink menu:
I, obviously, went with the egg white option, as per my latest obsession: The Pompelmo Sour was comprised of Gin, Amaro Montenegro, grapefruit syrup, lemon, and egg white. It was beautiful and delicious. I will also mention that I have another slight obsession with this style of cocktail glasses, and have purchased my own set (cocktail glasses). My favorite thing to do is to make a nice, extra dirty gin martini in one of these glasses and watch Casablanca. It just feels right.
Anyways, back to Estela.
We moved to our table and were given menus to peruse:
Siobhan is an adventurous eater, and really let me take the reigns on ordering, with a few requests of her own. I got the waitress’s recommendations (beef tartare, burrata, ricotta dumplings, and salted cod/potato croquettes), and she suggested three dishes, per person for family style dining.
We took all of the waitress’s suggestions, and added the lamb ribs and swordfish:
I’m messing around a lot more, lately, with my photography. But I’m finding that these dimly lit restaurants (my favorite) make “natural light” a real impossibility. Please feel free to drop me any suggestions in the comment box, below – I’m struggling here.
In addition to my lighting qualms, I also completely missed my photo-op of the swordfish, and actually couldn’t find a single photo of the dish on Yelp or the restaurant’s online gallery. But you aren’t missing much. The swordfish (with Meyer lemon, Marcona almonds, and arugula) was our absolute least favorite dish of the night. Let me paint the picture that I forgot to take: a big heap of arugula, covering nearly invisible swordfish underneath. The lemon flavor was way, way too overpowering, even when combined with the almonds. The fish itself was cooked well, but the tiny portion got lost in the flavor of the lemon.
The favorite dish of the night was, hands down, the ricotta dumplings (with mushrooms and pecorino sardo): the dumplings were pillowy and light but layered with flavors and tastes – very, very good. The beef tartare (with sunchokes) was also pretty good but had an unusual tomato paste flavor that kind of reminded me of ketchup. I hovered between loving this dish and being a little weirded out by it, and am still undecided on my final verdict.
The other dishes, the burrata, cod and potato croquettes, and the lamb ribs were all good, but just good. Don’t get me wrong, in comparison with most restaurants, these dishes were probably, actually outstanding. But I’m not comparing to “most restaurants;” I’m comparing to some of the best restaurants in NYC. Like Traif. After eating Traif’s burrata, I’m sorry, but most burratas are gonna look pretty lame in comparison. It’s a sad, hard life out there for foodies, but unfortunately “good” or even “great” just doesn’t pack a punch, anymore. I am looking for mind-blowing, these days. The same goes for the lamb ribs and the croquettes: they were really very good. But that’s about it. I forget (and really didn’t care to remember) the details of them because they were just that: forgettable.
Somewhere early on in the meal, I had transitioned to my next cocktail, an Old Fashioned, which was crafted well and traditionally, a little heavy on the ice:
For dessert, I let the waitress surprise us – I love surprises.
She gave us the sweet potato dessert, which was very yummy. This was another favorite dish of the meal, as it was unique and done very well. To drink, I went with a dessert wine: the Chateau D’Arlay Macvin du Jura blanc (France NV), and highly recommend it. It was served perfectly cold, and was sweet and refreshing.
The ambiance of the place was nice: casual and cozy. But its coziness also danced on the border of cramped; I don’t enjoy the fear that my ass might just swipe every dish and candle off of the table next to me as I get up to use the restroom. And if the tables are going to be that close together, make them lightweight so that they can easily be pushed to the side to allow more room. These things were heavy stone: would you rather swipe everything off of your neighboring table, or accidentally flip your own table onto the person on the opposite side? WWJD?
The service was good: As I mentioned, I appreciated them letting us in a few minutes early (which their neighboring restaurant, Gato had refused to do a few months prior – meanies). The bartender was friendly and executed his cocktails well. And the waitress was helpful and attentive without being pushy – a rare skill to find.
Overall, Estela earned a three star Baconboozer rating: good food/drinks, good ambiance, and good service, with a hefty (overpriced, in my opinion) price point, and none of the “OMG” moments that justify it. The time spent with my friend, Siobhan, however was priceless, and we are looking forward to our next adventure, hopefully sooner rather than later!