March 26, 2009

Tapas are Tasty and Retro is Chic at NYC’s La Fonda del Sol

A reincarnation of the supposed iconic restaurant of the 1960s, La Fonda del Sol is a very bright spot in the rather bleak midtown restaurant scene.

I’ve had the pleasure of dining at La Fonda twice– dinner in the more casual “lounge” and lunch in the formal dining room. The menus are similar, so head to the livelier bar area unless you still have an expense account and must pretend to be grown up. Check out the magnificent bullfighting and Flamenco photos in the dining room which somehow work beautifully with the sun-splashed carpet.

Mild digression alert: skip to the next paragraph if you’re pressed for time or have an aversion to run-on sentences. Now, I know tapas. Dare I even say that I’m a tapas connoisseur? Well, no, ick. However, those who know me well — and if you’re reading my blog that’s probably the case, unless at this stage in my increasingly socially media-ized life, I might be so delusional as to think that some of the Twitterati is reading as well — know that I’m generally lacking in ego. I’ve just been fortunate to have tapas trolled and crawled through NYC, not to mention Madrid, Barcelona, and Sevillla. Kick-ass tapas in Sevilla, by the way, with a side of Flamenco, amazing!

Anyway, the buried lead here is that La Fonda del Sol, while the antithesis of my usual cozy, downtown, sometimes dive-y haunts (being expansive with snazzy, sleek, striped décor in the shadow of Grand Central), is worth a detour. It’s an especially great after-work mood lifting spot.

But let’s talk tapas. Chef Josh DeChellis, with Michelin-starred stints and most recently of BarFry fame, is a master of fried, so croquetas are a MUST. How to choose from Manchego cheese, salt cod, or the politically-incorrect but dense and delicious veal terrine croquetas? Simple, order all three, they don’t disappoint. Tiny tuna tacos, laced with avocado and jalapeno-pickled onion have just the right amount of kick and delicate crunch from the taco shells. Garbanzo beans and spinach leaf or espinacas con garbanzos – forgive me I missed my Spanish class this week, must practice somehow – were smoky and creamy. The octopus or pulpo, with potatoes was very respectable. And I’m a pulpo snob after a recent trip to Pontevdra on the northwest coast of Spain, where we had pulpo at practically EVERY meal (usually grilled with olive oil and pimentón, but also gratinée, a wondrously silky, smoky, cheesy, chewy but in a good way concoction). Skip the potted duckling and pork, the only off note on an otherwise super solid tapas menu. Never tried any of the entrees, kinda seems besides the point, but I’m game to be convinced otherwise.

We drank the Don Olegario Albariño with lunch - crisp, fresh, great body, and a pleasing hint of smokiness that I can’t figure out since the wine is completely stainless-steel aged. Call me crazy.

Both meals ended with bunyols or cinnamon fritters - heavenly fried dough with three sauces: chocolate orange, pink peppercorn passion fruit, and salty caramel. We practically licked the ramekins clean.

Nice wine list and sherry selection, good cocktails too. Try the añejo highball, rum, curacao, ginger, and lime.

Ok, now I’m starving and muy thirsty! Hope you are too. Salut!

La Fonda del Sol
Met Life Building
44th Street and Vanderbilt Avenue
T: 212-867-6767

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