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Salinas: Some Spain, Some Pain

The ups and downs of a new Chelsea spot

Eating outside in New York City can be a challenge. Diners must inhale bus exhaust while squeezing into tiny tables on crowded, noisy street corners. Or worse, dodge scurrying rats on makeshift back patios. Despite all the obstacles, we'll still flock to any spot offering a cool summer breeze. Which explains the instant buzz around Salinas, a new Spanish restaurant in Chelsea.

Its back dining room features a retractable ceiling and large fireplace, setting the stage for al fresco romance and adding instant conviviality. Meanwhile, in the adjacent interior dining room, hanging glass lamps dangle above plush blue seats and many banquettes, while grotto-like stone walls lend a touch of faux rustic chic—think Manolo Blahnik hiking boots. Indeed, a nightclubby vibe fuels the restaurant, which clearly draws crowds from the nearby Meatpacking District.

The spot's name evokes the salt marshes along the coast of Spain and the Balearic Islands, and chef Luis Bollo's menu highlights dishes from that region. You'll still find textbook tapas, many of them spot-on, like the grilled bread slathered with perfectly fresh tomatoes, garlic, and olive oil ($7) and the fried shishito peppers ($8). More original offerings include quail ($16), cut into bite-sized pieces and paired with bacon and plums for a sweet-savory finish. And although pimentón walloped the Brussels spouts and cauliflower ($9) at one meal, it added a delectably smoky hint to the cooling yogurt sauce on another.

You won't quail at the quail.
Liz Barclay
You won't quail at the quail.

Location Info

Map

Salinas

136 Ninth Ave.
New York, NY 10011

Category: Restaurant > Spanish

Region: Chelsea

Details

Salinas
136 Ninth Avenue
212-776-1990, salinasnyc.com

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 A must-order entrée is the rosejat rápida ($23), even though its chicken chunks are overcooked. "It's like gourmet Spanish Rice-A-Roni," a friend exclaimed after digging into the squat vermicelli noodles topped with tiny cockles, chorizo nubs, and a hearty glob of lemon-yellow aioli. Really, who doesn't secretly love the San Francisco treat? I certainly do—Rice Pilaf flavor, booyah!—and this hearty bowl totally bests the box. Another standout—the porcella ($36), a portion of slow-roasted suckling pig large enough for two, served with grilled apricots and wilted frisée. The meat's tender, but the prize here is really the crackling golden skin—nix the diet for this oinker.

 Other dishes aren't as lucky. Head-on shrimp ($13) bathe in a delicately flavored pool of wine and garlic, but are mushy. The tuna in the avocado-slicked ceviche ($12) suffers, too—perhaps it marinated too long. The striped bass ($26) lacks flavor, and the veggie medley that comes with it adds little to the culinary equation, save for an oddly bitter aftertaste. And smoked paprika mauls the patatas bravas ($7) nearly beyond recognition.

The food at Salinas might be decent enough overall—provided you order correctly—to warrant a repeat visit. Unfortunately, the service will keep me from ever going back.

Perhaps the waiters are simply too busy ogling the throngs of blondes in their glittery dresses to focus on actually doing their jobs. One night at the restaurant, my friends and I waited nearly 40 minutes for our appetizers, only then to be greeted with our mains. At another dinner, our server deposited the shishito peppers in front of us, then realized that we had actually asked for the pequillos. Rather than offering to retrieve our original order, he inquired if this mistake would suffice. Who wants to deal with this general sort of disaffected unprofessionalism—not to mention the hostesses' icy demeanor and death-stare eyes!

But one glance overhead at a rare starry night in New York City, and most can be forgiven. Though not quite forgotten.

lshockey@villagevoice.com

For more restaurant coverage, check out our food blog, Fork in the Road, at voicefoodblog.com. Follow us on Twitter @ForkintheRoadVV.

 

 
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2 comments
Edmillman
Edmillman

This review was excellently written and composed. Great job LS.

Robert
Robert

Salinas, I grew up there. It's an ugly ag town in the Salinas Valley in California. It always stinks of ag chemicals and the wind is always blowing 20-30mph. But it's also the spot where most of the letuce is grown in this country and where all the artichokes are grown (centered around Castroville 7 miles away). From what I learned Salinas got it's name because in the summer the river goes underground and the salt water from the ocean washes into the river bed.

The wind makes it unfit for growing fruit trees, but the soil is very fertile so the valley's main crops are vegetables in addition to the letuce. The vegtable industry in the Salinas Valley is valued into the billions of dollars last I heard. John Stienbeck wrote about the people in the ag industry in the Salinas Valley which made him famous and many of his books were made into movies.

Wouldn't be ironic of the entres' made in Salinas came from Salinas!

 
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