The smell of Tertulia's wood burning oven greets you at the door. The whole place smells faintly of a fireplace, evoking memories of sipping red wine while listening to the sound of logs crackle and burn. But it is not the smell of the wood oven that makes Tertulia stand out; it is what they cook in it.
Paella. Not the combination of dry yellow rice with seafood and vegetables that many restaurants (including many expensive restaurants) market as paella. This is paella como Dios manda - as God commands it to be done. The short-grain rice is creamy, almost like risotto but not quite, with that prized crispy-almost-burnt crust on the bottom that the Spanish call the socarrat. The color is closer to red than yellow. It has the floral scent of saffron, the smokey flavor of pimentón and the fruity finish of quality extra virgin olive oil. It is filled with sepia and topped with clams, sweet shrimp and buttery pieces of lobster.
As is the trend in many newer restaurants, Tertulia firmly rejects the entree. The menu consists of smaller plates and only three platos familiares ("family-style dishes"), which are larger plates to share. With three people, the paella and five of the smaller plates left us full and satisfied.
|Tosta Setas and Pan Con Tomate|
|Tosta Huevo Roto y Jamon Iberico|
|The Dining Room at Tertulia|
The wine list had a wide range of Spanish wines, but it was very pricey for such a casual restaurant. There were hardly any bottles under $40 and very few under $50. The least expensive glass of wine was $13, which is threatening to become the new norm in Manhattan. Feeling adventurous, we opted for a carafe of the "house wine" on tap, which yielded about three unexceptional glasses and set us back $25 ($40 for a bottle).
|Torrijas with Hazelnut Ice Cream|
A word about dessert. Our waitress oddly tried to dissuade us from ordering the torrijas, but we were undeterred. And our persistence paid off. The Spanish cross between French toast and bread pudding was terrific, crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside, paired with homemade hazelnut ice cream.
In sum, Tertulia offers an excellent meal that reminds me very much of Spain. If nothing else, it offers one really terrific paella.
359 6th Avenue
Recommended Dishes: Pan con tomate ($5), tosta setas ($9), tosta huevo roto ($11), paella de mariscos ($48), torrijas ($7).
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