Pamplona is chef-owner Alex Ureña’s bow to reality. Ureña, his passionate celebration of molecular cooking in this same modest space, didn’t pay the bills. Now he gives New Yorkers Spanish classics that are easy to love. Familiar tapas expertly done—crunchy salt-cod croquettes, eggplant meatballs, fritters of ham, cheese, and cider. A lush paella mixing rabbit and chorizo with squid and mussels is meant to share. We arrive in this dark, mostly beige, rather somber room with its smart glass dividers and a few mirrors to find our two guests at a cocktail table, happily sipping blood-orange margaritas and sharing smoked-chorizo popcorn. Ureña, veteran of nine years with David Bouley, father as of that morning to a second child, has forsaken most revolutionary urges but not his bent for hospitality. When he isn’t up front slicing ham for patrons at the bar or rushing out back to oversee a sensational truffle-oil-poached egg with white-asparagus salad, chorizo, and pimiento del piquillo sauce, he’s stopping by the table to make suggestions. A first-rate passion-fruit mojito is an instant mellower, and soon we’re into his thick and creamy gazpacho with shrimp (and, surprisingly, goat cheese) swirled into a big black bowl. The chef might like you to try the sea scallops with apple stuffing, blood sausage, and truffle yogurt, but he also offers hamburguesa with slivers of suckling pig and chorizo. All at reasonable prices. Reality doesn’t hurt at all.
37 E. 28th St., nr. Park Ave. S.; 212-213-2328