Just a day before Adam Platt’s review of Salinas came out, I had booked reservations at Salinas. We were doing a Saturday afternoon Chelsea gallery jaunt and wanted to eat nearby. Lucky for us, I booked before the review rush. He awarded it one star; two for the food and minus one for the ‘suburban atmosphere’. I was a bit leery of the suburban atmosphere comment. How bad could it be?
We walked into a small bar area, which, save for the plug in waterfall, didn’t seem too suburban. Frankly, my parents have the same waterfall. I always liked it in their house. So I guess I see Platt’s point on that count. We were held at the bar for an unusually long time considering we were among the first reservations in the early evening. They must have been late setting up for dinner service. Good thing they had a fresh vat of sangria on the bar! The recipe is the very traditional with brandy. Fruit was added to the top of the glass rather than being fermented in the alcohol, but I still enjoyed it more than most. It was very dark in color and what I think must have been a generous dose of brandy. This is potentially a good spot to go to the bar for sangria and tapas, although the bar area could stand to be larger.
We were taken to the rear outdoor patio. There is a lovely stone fireplace and on it were potted plants, flowers and herbs. Maybe that was a bit suburban home, but certainly nothing offensive. In terms of color choice, I think they could have done better. There is an overwhelming amount of blue…stuffed chairs and banquettes. The fireplace is truly a nice touch and really kept things warm on a rather cool fall evening. The roof also has a sliding glass ceiling, so it should be rather cozy in the winter. Most importantly, we really enjoyed the food and the service was excellent. The decor was homey and comfortable, just right for enjoying a meal.
Salinas features cuisine from the Basque region of Spain which is becoming more and more popular in New York. Another great one is Txikito in Chelsea as well. Basque cuisine features grilled meats and fish, fish and lamb stews, cod, bean dishes, tapas and Basque ciders.
Croquetas de Carrillera $9
Corn crusted veal cheeks, wild mushrooms, roasted apple & Moscatell emulsion
Crujiente Mahones $7
Spanish flatbread, dry aged Mahon cheese, honey, thyme & sea salt
Ceviche Canario $13
Yellowfin tuna, tomatoes, spicy mojo Picon, onions, cilantro & avocado
Langostinos Allo Ajillo $14
Head-on shrimp, fresh garlic, lemon juice, Albarino wine & mushrooms
Our waitress was very attentive and offered us good recommendations. We had already noted the key dishes in Platt’s review and she offered up a few others we enjoyed. She recommended one of our favorites, the Croquetas. Platt recommended the Spanish flatbread with Mahon cheese. It’s one of those simple and delicious traditional dishes. I could have had another. Probably our least favorite starter was the ceviche. Not because it was bad, but because it wasn’t that exciting. The fish was fresh but it just wasn’t anything outstanding. On the other hand, the head-on shrimp was fantastic. I am not one to be picky about tearing apart my shellfish, so this one ranks really high with me. The shrimp was perfectly cooked and seasoned. I might add it was far better than the similar preparation served at The Dutch. This concluded our run of Tapas and Seasonal Starters needed to kill the 30 minutes of prep time needed for the roasted suckling pig.
If you order this entree, share it. The crispy skin is amazing and the reduction flavor is to die for. Suckling pig isn’t something we order often. It is such a rich, gamey flavor. This one was done nicely, moist and falling apart. Really, this is the specialty of the house and should be a part of the meal here. Order it right away and fill in with lots of tapas to keep things flowing and minimize any wait time. Sit outside by the fire on a fall day.
There was a professional photographer on site later in the evening. I could have used his services! The iPhone worked well when it was light, but I had to pull out the camera for the pig. It’s hard to be subtle with a camera in a restaurant!
136 Ninth Ave. bet. 18th & 19th Sts. – Chelsea