• Critics’ Pick
  • Estela

  • $15-$34
  • 47 E. Houston St.
    New York, NY 10012
  • Neighborhood: Nolita
  • Phone: 212-219-7693
Estela Photo
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When it opened in 2013, Estela looked, on first inspection, like all the other undersize, overcrowded bar-­restaurants that were then multiplying around town like rabbits in this post-gourmet age. The walk-up space, on a scruffy stretch of East Houston, is the size of a narrow truck garage. The brick walls are mostly devoid of decoration, unless you count the yards of exposed ductwork snaking along the ceiling. The menu (15 Mediterranean-themed items, plus assorted salumi and snacks) seems to have been designed less with a proper dinner in mind than to complement a cocktail or a glass (or three) of wine. And in the grand tradition of tiny bar-restaurants everywhere, the best seats in the house are at the bar itself, which is topped with white marble, accommodates 14 people comfortably, and tends to fill up for good after seven o’clock. Unlike most of the clamorous new bar joints around town, this one serves small, perfectly crisped croquettes stuffed, in the classic Spanish style, with blood sausage; and plates of plum-sweet scallops, which were spritzed with wedges of orange and lemon and taste like they’ve just been brought up from the sea. The seared razor clams I enjoyed one evening at the bar wouldn’t be out of place at one of the better tapas establishments on the Costa Brava. The soft, chunky cod had the simple, satisfying quality of good Spanish home cooking, and so did the mussels escabèche, which are set individually on little finger-size wedges of toast, spread with fresh aïoli, and served in a bowl pooled with olive oil and vinegar. The man responsible for these treats is a talented, peripatetic chef named Ignacio Mattos. We last saw Mattos at Isa in Williamsburg, where he dabbled in various audacious haute-forager experiments (spelt soup, beef tartare with sunchoke cream and crème fraîche, the crisped skeleton of a single sardine). Critics liked the food, but the locals, apparently, did not, and he was canned after a few months on the job. He’s learned from this dismal experience, creating a cleaner, more satisfying, and less consciously fussy style that’s captured the taste buds of the city’s gourmands. The ricotta dumplings are by far the best of the four entrée-style dishes at Estela, but if you’re in the mood for something slightly more substantial, I suggest the culotte steak, which has the consistency of good filet and is plated with Bayley Hazen cheese and parsley. The accomplished, cocktail list is just four drinks long, and the eclectic wine list (as curated by former Blue Hill at Stone Barns sommelier Thomas Carter) has the variety and quality of that of a restaurant twice the size.

Feature Links

http://estelanyc.com/
  • Hours

    Mon-Thu, 5:30pm-11pm Fri, 5:30pm-11:30pm Sat, 11:30am-3pm and 5:30pm-11:30pm Sun, 11:30am-3pm and 5:30pm-11pm

  • Prices

    $15-$34

  • Payment

    American Express MasterCard Visa

  • Special Features

    Dine at the Bar Notable Wine List Brunch - Weekend Online Reservation

  • Alcohol

    Full Bar

  • Reservations

    Recommended

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