After a couple more visits here, I have to admit I mostly like it. The food is pretty consistently good, and a decent value by neighborhood standards. I've liked nearly everything I've tried.
Winners: pan con tomate, garbanzos with chorizo, the stewed/roasted eggplant, the gambas al ajillo (quite different from the traditional bowl with little shrimps in garlicky broth, more like five big grilled prawns with a little garlicky oil on the side and a *lot* of saffron sprinkled over it), jamon serrano (excellent quality somewhat ameliorates an $11 tag for a 10-12 slices).
Also, tortilla espanola (mutated already from the first-week traditional wedge to three ice-cube-sized squares), croquetas de bacala (delicious little golfballs, crusty outside, mashed-potato creamy inside), patatas bravas (good small cubes of fried potatoes with a garlic and sweet-pepper sauces), tongue (very tasty, tender, thin-sliced, caper-y), an okay cheese plate, pan con tomate with anchovies, olives.
Desserts are pretty successful: the churros with chocolate sauce and Jello 1-2-3-like spuma are both very tasty and unusual. The only loser overall so far is the shrimp ceviche, more my problem with the mushy texture than the flavor, a general problem I have with ceviches.
Two problems remain: waits for seating and wine prices. The former will remain a problem for a long while. In a place this small, it's difficult for the host to predict how long people at tables will linger. Like the Franklin, this venue is best enjoyed if you have a Plan B, are ready to relocate if the wait seems too long. It'll be tough to plan a night around it, with the elastic wait times to sit. A lot easier if you live nearby. You might get lucky and snag a bar seat, but you have to lurk and pounce, not really fun.
The staff is still putting that first-flush good face on the crowded conditions and impatient patrons, but I wonder how long they can keep that up. It has to be wearying. Wine will remain expensive, is my guess; it's part of the profit-making calculus of the place. I'll give the cocktails a try on my next visit; at least one bartender was bragging on their mixology skills.
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