Rioja Wines in the Heart of New York City: The Quality of Certified Spanish
Living in New York City offers a unique experience of cultural diversity, culinary excellence, and endless possibilities as featured on Eater.com.
It can be challenging to pick which New York City Spanish restaurants are truly authentic and worth your time and money. Ensure you get an authentic Spanish experience right in the heart of the city by visiting restaurants that are certified by the country itself.
The Spanish certification is awarded to restaurants that wholeheartedly embrace Spanish ingredients, culture, and flavors, making it easier than ever to choose where to dine. Eater.com highlighted two major New York City establishments, Hudson Yards’ Mercado Little Spain and Chelsea’s Salinas, that have earned this prestigious certification and are redefining what authentic Spanish food means in the city that never sleeps.
Oh, and of course they serve Rioja.
Mercado Little Spain: A Hub of Authenticity
Mercado Little Spain, created by the renowned chef José Andrés, is a vibrant and bustling food destination located near the High Line in Hudson Yards. It’s a place where authenticity meets a deep respect for tradition and high-quality ingredients. Nicolas Lopez, the concept chef at Mercado Little Spain, began his culinary journey in avant-garde cuisine but eventually decided to return to his Spanish roots, mastering the rich history and recipes of his homeland.
One of the standout dishes at Mercado Little Spain is the tortilla de patatas. This classic Spanish dish is meticulously crafted, with each slice oozing with caramelized onions, soft potatoes, and perfectly seasoned eggs. What sets it apart is the dedication to cooking each tortilla individually, poaching the potatoes and onions slowly throughout the day to ensure the perfect texture and flavor. This attention to detail exemplifies the commitment to authenticity at Mercado Little Spain.
The croquetas at Mercado Little Spain are another masterpiece. Encased in a delicate and crisp golden-brown breading, they reveal a creamy pulled chicken filling that’s reminiscent of a comforting chicken pot pie. The gambas al ajillo (garlic shrimp) are sizzling and fragrant, bathed in olive oil, thin garlic slices, fresh parsley, and topped with a fragrant bay leaf. And for dessert, the churros are a must-try: light, crunchy, and just slightly sweet, they are paired with a rich dark chocolate sauce made from Spanish flour and chocolate, demonstrating the commitment to using the finest ingredients.
At Mercado Little Spain, tapas culture thrives, creating a lively atmosphere where patrons come to share dishes and enjoy a refreshing glass of Albariño from Rias Baixas or a Rioja wine like cherries, plum, and vanilla-filled Rioja from Bodegas Montecillo. This winery, dating back to 1870, showcases the rich history and winemaking traditions of the region.
Salinas: Redefining Authentic Spanish Cuisine
Salinas, located in Chelsea, takes a different approach to authentic Spanish cuisine. Rather than replicating classic dishes, the restaurant embraces them as a starting point, allowing inspiration and global ingredients to shape their creations. The result is a unique and innovative take on Spanish food that challenges traditional notions of authenticity.
The ambiance at Salinas is ideal for a romantic date night, with warm lighting, hidden corners, and plush velvet booths. The spirit of tapas prevails, encouraging guests to share multiple plates and explore the menu together. As Luis Bollo, the executive chef and partner at Salinas, explains, “Spanish cuisine is meant to be shared and acts as a vehicle for conversation.”
Bollo, a Spaniard from San Sebastian who has lived in New York City for two decades, believes that authenticity and tradition are not synonymous. He pushes the boundaries of authenticity by using high-quality Spanish ingredients as a foundation and incorporating global influences like sesame oil, gochujang, garum, and bottarga into his dishes.
Salinas offers a creative take on the classic champiñones al ajillo with their setas al mojo. Shiitake mushrooms are presented like ravioli, drizzled with goat cheese, cilantro mojo, and seaweed pumpkin butter. Their patatas bravas are elevated with fried potatoes topped with a generous serving of whipped aioli, trout, black lumpfish caviar, and shaved bottarga, creating a rich, salty, and spicy flavor profile with a touch of umami from soy and dried mullet roe.
One of Bollo’s signature dishes, the ibérico pork belly with piquillo pepper gochujang and Galician seaweed with “Basque mole,” is a testament to his innovative approach. The dish combines thick slices of ibérico pork belly with nutty sesame sauce, pickled cucumber, black sesame, pumpkin seeds, and a gochujang-inspired piquillo paste. It’s a fusion of flavors that showcases the limitless possibilities of modern Spanish cuisine.
Amanda Pangan Baró, the manager and wine buyer for Salinas, curates a wine program that pays homage to both established wineries and newer, innovative producers. Wines like the Prado Enea Grand Reserva from Bodegas Muga in Rioja, with its notes of smoke, cedar, chocolate, and blackberries, represent the traditional elegance of Spanish wine. At the same time, Salinas spotlights emerging producers who are redefining what great Spanish wine can be, embracing the ever-evolving world of Spanish viticulture.
In a city as diverse as New York, the search for authentic cuisine can be daunting. Fortunately, restaurants with a Spanish certification ensures that you can enjoy genuine Spanish food and wine experiences without leaving the city. Hudson Yards’ Mercado Little Spain and Chelsea’s Salinas are shining examples of establishments that embrace Spanish culture and ingredients while pushing the boundaries of tradition and innovation. Whether you’re savoring a slice of perfectly crafted tortilla de patatas or indulging in a modern twist on a classic Spanish dish, these restaurants bring the rich flavors of Spain to the heart of New York City. So, the next time you’re seeking an authentic Spanish culinary adventure, look no further than these two remarkable establishments, where Rioja wines complement the exquisite flavors of Spain in the heart of the Big Apple.