Small plates have become so ubiquitous in the last few years, it’s no longer novel to open up a tapas restaurant. So to cut it in this town with that kind of concept is tough. But not for Boqueria, apparently. “We’re in a city where restaurants have a half-life of about two years,” says Yann de Rochefort, pointing out that his empire has proved it has staying power. He’s getting ready to open a fifth location (the third in New York City) on the Upper East Side this week.
This Boqueria (1460 Second Avenue) is the first uptown outpost, and it joins siblings in Soho and the Flatiron District that are headed by chef Marc Vidal. The menus vary slightly at all three locations, but all showcase classic Spanish tapas (like creamy croquetas, thinly sliced charcuterie, and patatas bravas — crispy hunks of potato smothered in a roasted garlic aioli) as well as innovations, like quail eggs and chorizo on toast and grilled flatbreads.
In addition to the staples on menus elsewhere, the Upper East Side will serve a unique set of dishes; look for Cuscurros y Torreznos, or butter lettuce, frisée, soft-boiled egg, pickled pearl onions, crispy pig ears, and chickpeas with mustard dressing; Escalivada, or fire-roasted eggplant with charred red pepper, roasted onion, black olives, hard-boiled egg, pine nuts, basil, and sherry vinegar; Piquillos Rellenos, or braised oxtail with piquillo peppers, celery root puree, crispy shallots, and red wine jus; and Mejillones con Chorizo, white wine-steamed mussels with chorizo, salsa verde, and guindilla pepper.
De Rochefort is excited to branch out in a new neighborhood, and he’s open to catering to what neighbors want. “Soho opening hours are different — it’s a very tourist-driven location, where Flatiron is a more New York-driven location,” he explains. “Our regulars come back for the classic dishes. We’re going to see what we have to do for the neighborhood.”
He has practice making adjustments: His team lowered sodium content in Hong Kong to meet locals’ flavor expectations, and he focused on happy hour in Washington, D.C., to accommodate the after-office dinner-and-drinks lifestyle preferred by those working on the Hill.
The 80-seat restaurant opens tonight, and it will serve lunch and dinner. A weekend brunch may come online in the next few months.