Went down to 1492 on Clinton St in the Lower East Side last night. Before I get into the more critical part of this post, let me first say that we really liked this place. The people are really friendly, the place has a great simple look, there's a great selection of wines including nice dry sherries by the glass at VERY reasonable prices ($5,$6) and there are lots of yummy things to choose from at great prices. We concentrated on the tapas menu. The tapas come in two sizes Tapas @ $3-$4 and Raciones @ $5-$10.
First of all I'd like to mention two nice little touches.
1) If you sit at the comfortable bar and order wine by the glass, the bartender (who had a bit of an ownerish feel to him) will pour you a tiny taste first so you can ascertain if the selection is to your liking.
2) When you get to the table, they bring out a nice basket of delicious crusty bread with an absolutely ass-kickin' garlic alioli (sic).
On to the Tapas. In the interest of brevity (ha!), I will simply list the items we tasted with a few comments on each one.
Croquetas de Jamon - Serrano ham croquettes
These were deliciously light, with a golden crunchy exterior and a creamy Serrano suffused interior.
Gambas a la Plancha - Whole prawns grilled w/ sea salt
This one was a 2-1 split, with the two shrimp-head eaters (my wife and I) raving, and our friend-who-lived-in-Spain-but-doesn't-suck-shrimp-heads saying that it did not live up to her expectations. Big, meaty head-on shrimp, grilled tender-perfect, with a nice smokiness from the grill on the head.
Albondigas - Meatballs in tomato sauce
Meatballs in tomato sauce.
Gambas al ajillo - Shrimp, garlic, and extra virgin olive oil
These gambas were a little rubbery and didn't have great flavor. On the other hand, if you made sure that you had plenty of the delicious minced garlic and spices which completely covered the bottom of the dish with your shrimp, you found that you didn't mind so much.
Mejillones a las vinagretta - Steamed mussels w/ pepper vinaigrette
I am not a mussel fan, but my wife and friend pronounced this dish good.
Tortilla - Spanish Frittatta with alioli sauce
Dull. Kind of an uncrispy hash brown with some of that nice alioli on it. There are better ways to acquire calories and spend cash here.
Piquillo peppers stuffed w/ codfish Bechamel sauce
Excellent. Just about anything that has Bacalao in it seems to be good here. the filling was creamy and subtly coddy, the peppers roasted beautiully and the brilliant orange puree it was served with was a nice counterpoint.
Plato de embutidos - Manchego and Cabrales cheese, chorizo, Serrano ham, Cecina, goat cheese
This is a very serviceable cheese, ham and sausage platter. The one standout here was the Mojama - air-dried tuna imported from Spain. It was smoky, complex, delicately salty, with a prosciutto-like texture that dissolved into an unctuous delicate smoothness in your mouth. Outstanding and a must-try. I don't know if this always appears on this platter as it is not listed in the menu description, however it is also listed as a seperate item on the Tapas menu.
Bunuelos de bacalao - Codfish fritters
They know how to fry here. These fritters were light and delectable, perhaps a little touch shy on the salt, but then you can always add a little salt more easily than you can subtract it.
Patatas tres salsas - French fries w/ three sauces
These are not earth-shaking fries, but they are good. The sauces include the ubiquitous alioli (hey, I'm not complaining), the brava which was kinda like fra diavolo - fairly unexciting, and cabrales sauce which is actually quite nice.
Actually one big grilled sardine, nicely grilled, very simple with a little garlic and olive oil dressing. Tasty and simple.
All in all, pleasant, tasty, simple, affordable, friendly, and not at all crowded (on a Tuesday). Smoking is permitted throughout the restaurnt, they are now accepting MC & Visa, they have a full bar and a garden area.
The only thing that confuses me is that when I read about this place, other hounds mentioned a Jewish/Spanish connection and I didn't notice this at all - it all seemed pretty Spanish to me.
1492 on 60 Clinton St. bet. Stanton & Rivington