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Restaurants & Bars 4

Buceo 95 - A Review (long)

LNG212 | Feb 25, 200812:06 PM

We've been to Buceo 95 a couple of times now and most recently had food. So I wanted to post a review. (It's the new wine/tapas bar on West 95th Street between Amsterdam and Broadway.)

Atmosphere – The decor is quite lovely: tall wooden tables with marble tops, wine along the walls, cozy lighting. I love the red lamps hanging over the bar area. It's a little bit tight but not terribly so. We were a party of 5 the last time we were there and we were comfortable at our table. The place tends to really get full on Friday and Saturday nights. So the noise generated is of people laughing and talking; the music is actually just background (I think it was some good latin jazz the last time we were there). The wall facing the street is all windows and I expect it will be lovely in the spring when they open them.

Service – The owner has been there each time we've been there and she even remembered us. She "works the room", so to speak, in a good way. Our first night there she offered us tastes of things. She seems to be "growing" her business in a good way. On one occasion, the bartender was attentive without being obtrusive (good). On another occasion, our waiter (very personable without hovering) offered some good suggestions for wine choices. He even suggested we switch over to ordering bottles from quartinos when a few of us ordered the same wine, saying we would save money. We appreciated the tip. When I inquired about several of the dishes, the owner brought over the sous chef (who apparently came from Pure Food and Wine). I had a great conversation with him about food and he was very nice and didn't seem to mind. We spoke extensively about the beet ravioli (see below). I also very briefly spoke with the chef (David Ruiz) who also seemed happy to talk to customers about the food.

Wine – We thought the wine selection on our first visit was not so terrific since many were listed as "coming soon". But their wines seem to be fully stocked now. On different visits, I've had: 1) a crisp but somewhat mediocre sauvignon blanc; 2) a non-oaked chardonnay that I quite enjoyed, surprising myself; and 3) the top of the bunch was a very good cotes du rhone called Petit Chapeau (which we ended up ordering bottles of). I think the wines were the most fairly priced things at this place – which is a good thing since it's a wine bar. They are priced by the quartino and the bottle. Most of the quartinos are in the $10-$15 range and they are very generous pours. The bottle of Cotes du Rhone that we had was $33.

Food – We've ordered quite a number of items from their menu. Most have been good to very good. The cheese plate was very good; the cheese served at the proper temperature and in larger quantities than I would have expected ($12 for three). The accompanimenti were somewhat meager but the waiter didn't mind refilling our bread basket (several times); so that worked out. The beet ravioli were fantastic. They were kind of like deconstructed ravioli – a beet square on the bottom and top (unconnected) and in the middle, a pistachio-cashew mixture. I found out from talking with the sous chef that it was all raw. The beets were amazing and I had no idea that one could eat them raw. The dish was also fantastically colorful (even in the dim lighting of the place). They were so good but at 4 small pieces, we thought they were the least "value for the money" of the items we ordered ($9). We also had the crab cakes with mango salsa ($12) – also fantastic and DH considers himself a crab-cake-afficionado. A very generous portion with attractive plating. DH liked the chorizo lollipops ($7) and the Churrasco con Yucca frita ($11). However, he thought the Yucca part of the latter dish was absolutely horrible. It was the only thing we didn't like at all. The mushroom plate ($11) was at least three (probably four) types of mushrooms sauteed. I thought they were very good but my friend thought they were a bit salty for her taste. The olives ($5, but the owner gave us some free at the bar the first night) are very good, a strong oregano flavor. The owner said she's been curing her own olives. Finally, we tried one of the dessert tapas – the chocolate empanadas ($6). I think I may have swooned. They were fantastic: all warm and gooey chocolate on the inside with crisp (lightly fried?) pastry on the outside. They are mini ones, so it's perfect for sharing. I must say that I absolutely loved some of their serving dishes and their plating is really lovely. The style of the food coming out of that tiny kitchen makes you watch – and then point to a dish traveling across the room and say to your waiter, "I want one of those!"

All in all, it is most certainly a place we will return to. However, we will probably go mostly to sip wine rather than eat. While we loved most of the food, it was a bit more pricey (given the plate sizes) than we can do on a regular basis. Overall, I think it's a great addition to our part of the Upper West Side.

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