socarrat–noun, 1. seductive caramelization of the bottom layer of a perfect paella when the liquid is absorbed and the rice is done. 2. Paella Bar. 259 W 19th Street. New York, NY 10011.
I found out about Socarrat from Refinery29’s “29 Dishes, 29 Restaurants: What to Order in NYC.” When I saw the picture of that meat paella, I knew I had to eat there. It was even more exciting to find out that they had a location in the neighborhood I was staying at, Chelsea! I’ve never been to Spain before so I can’t claim to be a paella expert. I think that’s part of the reason why paella intrigues me. It’s a dish I could never make on my own and Spain is not in my near future so I get excited whenever I see it on a menu. I like to pretend I’m in Spain whilst I eat it. I will say that the best paella I’ve ever had was at Chaya Venice in Los Angeles (if you ever get the chance, you must go and eat it).
We started the meal with sizzling garlic shrimp and fried artichokes. The garlic oil in the shrimp dish was so flavorful and we all couldn’t help dipping our bread in it. The shrimps were a little overcooked. The fried artichoke was lovely and the breading wasn’t too heavy.
We also had scallops with mushrooms and those were delicious! The scallops were cooked perfectly and the sauteed maitake mushrooms tasted so good in the butter vinaigrette. I would definitely order those scallops again.
My friend Emily’s sister was allergic to fish, which limited our paella choices quite a bit. I kind of feel like paella isn’t quite the same if it doesn’t have seafood in it so we ended up ordering 2! We ordered the meat paella with pork, duck, chicken, chorizo and peas AND the Socarrat paella with chicken,beef, sepia, shrimp, cuttle fish, mussels, clams and green beans.
These things were huge. One paella can feed 4 people for sure. We had a lot of leftovers afterward. Our waitress explained to us that we should only mix the top layer so that we can have bottom crunchy layer aka socarrat.
The meat paella had a smoky flavor but I actually preferred the Socarrat paella. It seemed lighter and the flavor was more complex. While the fish was cooked well, my only complaint was that the shrimp didn’t seem to be fresh. I tried a few but they were mushy. Something was definitely off.
Overall, we had a really great dinner at Socarrat. It was a casual place and all booth seating. Be prepared to share tables. Service was friendly and they constantly refilled our waters/checked in on us. Our waitress’ accent was so strong/authentic that we had to ask her to repeat things quite a few times.
Solid food and great atmosphere, but the best paella is still at Chaya Venice. I wouldn’t go out of my way to eat there again the next time I’m in NYC, but I’m happy that I got to eat a dish off of Refinery29’s list.