Thanks to the folks who've recommended Las Ramblas, the Barcelona-style tapas bar on W. 4th. I went last night with a friend before Film Forum. The food was spectacular, and the staff was extremely attentive and friendly.
My usual rule of thumb for tapas is three per person, and the two of us ordered six at first, 3 from the main menu and three specials. The specials tended to be higher-priced than most of the main menu, at about $9-12 per item. The food was so good that we had to go for a seventh item. With drinks, it worked out to over $50 per person (with tip), but one can probably keep it to $35 with drinks.
Every item was a winner, which is not a too-frequent occurrence. Each item had very particular, bold flavors, and the chef has clearly paid great attention to seasonings and combinations. Nothing was timid, nothing was heavy-handed.
The Serrano ham-wrapped monkfish pieces were delicately flavored, but were placed atop a lentil salad that had a prominent, but not overwhelming, vinegar presence. The combination worked.
The morcilla salteado, two kinds of blood sausage (one with rice)was rich and flavorful without being over-salty.
The duck breast was served with a muscatel sauce that was fairly sweet, but not cloying. It was a delicate balance.
From the menu:
Mushrooms with sherry & almonds. The aromatic sherry flavor, marrying with garlic, highlighted the earthy mushroom flavor.
Banderillas con chorizo de pato. Mini-skewers of duck sausage, with quail egg & pearl onion. Simple & tasty.
Patatas bravas: the best version of these Spanish fried potatoes I've had in NY since the demise of Helena's on Lafayette St.
and finally, our "dessert": grilled octopus served with purple potatoes. The different-than-usual potatoes were a nice touch, the pulpo tender and delicious.