Estela feels like such a neighborhood spot, the entrance as if you’re stepping into your college buddy’s second-story walk-up on a Saturday night, bottle of something in hand, pile of boots and ballet flats strewn around the door, your mind on that one girl you met last time and wondering if she might show up tonight. The interior is dim, vaguely shimmery from candlelight, shrouded by hushed conversations, dates and hip parties, a good energy spilling over from the crowded bar. You want it to be a hip friend’s apartment, somewhere that if smoking were still a thing, there would be the faraway scent of that and perfume and jazz.
And fancy ginger ales. With beautifully cubed ice. Surryano country ham. Because, why not? Fat and salt in a relatively primal form. A simple, elevated presentation of crunchy leaves of green (kale?). But underneath this lardo-brushed canopy, some seared scallops, simple and sweet, sweetness that surprisingly held up its own to the herbacious, textured sweetness of sugar snap peas. Fried arroz negro with sepia and romesco. So many layers of savory in this dish, as well as texture – the rice, the slippery bits of cuttlefish, and the tangy spread of romesco. Lamb ribs, phenomenally tender, seasoned with chermoula (a North African spice mix) and honey. The heavy fragrance of cumin, the crunch of the spice, the fatty gaminess of the lamb. Incredibly soft ricotta dumplings, topped with shaved discs of nutty sunchoke, resting in a brodo of sorts. These were Myra’s favorite, a comforting, deeply savory morsel of ricotta that falls apart wonderfully in your mouth. Ethereal is a good word here. And to finish, a chocolate ganache, loaded with airy whipped cream and a heavy dusting of chocolate powder. I don’t know what it is about me, but I don’t get up for chocolate. Caramel, panna cotta, ice cream, tarts, pies, donuts, anything else – but chocolate just doesn’t ring the bell for me.
Still, the other dishes we had were so inspiring, the bites that touch a chord in your chest that sends a hum of yes through your body, those are the ones that will linger. Goodnight, Houston Street.Estela
47 E Houston St, New York, NY 10012