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Best Anchovies

  • La Vara

    268 Clinton St., nr. Verandah Pl., Cobble Hill; 718-422-0065

    To paraphrase Alice Waters, the best cooking amounts to little more than fastidious shopping. That philosophy might hold true for Spanish cuisine most of all, with its fetishization of regional ingredients and its deceptively simple tapas tradition; when the twain meet, it often involves the opening of a high-class can. In the case of La Vara co-chefs Alex Raij and Eder Montero, the can in question contains anchovies fished from the Cantabrian Sea off Spain’s northern coast, savory, meaty fillets that are good enough to stand alone. Culinary serendipity struck, though, on a stroll through Kalustyan’s, when Raij encountered dukkah, an Egyptian nut-and-spice mix that’s often eaten as a snack with oil and bread. She pegged it as the perfect condiment for her aristocratic little fish, bolstering its richness with extra hazelnuts and pistachios, and slicking the garnished anchovies with a healthy dose of Arbequina olive oil ($11). Besides giving the classic tapa a Middle Eastern aspect that meshes well with the restaurant’s multi­cultural identity, this preparation satisfies another predilection of Raij’s: “I like dishes that force you to untar, or push bread around the plate with lots of good olive oil,” she says. “This is very Spanish behavior.”

From the 2013 Best of New York issue of New York Magazine