Nestled between a Williamsburg condo construction site and another building occupied by a battalion of fashion models, the swank new tapas restaurant Bar Celona seems poised to cash in on (and advance) the neighborhood's steady drumbeat of gentrification. At first glance, one might assume this chic place is just a tad out of step with the still slightly scruffy South Side, but let's not forget that the well-appointed Dressler is just a few blocks away, and Aurora isn't exactly a dump, either. Bar Celona's interior design may be seductively or surreally luxurious, but that doesn't take anything away from the stellar cocktails or chef Jordy Lavanderos's first-rate menu. Also: fireplace.
Owner Cynthia Diaz beckoned us to Bar Celona last week, and working backwards, we have to recommend, for dessert, the Habichuela Con Dulce ($8), a warm, rich delicacy with raisins and cinnamon, conveniently served in a mug which can be used to slurp the remaining contents once the spoon exhausts its efficacy. Diaz told us the recipe has been in her family for years; her parents are originally from the Dominican Republic.
On your way to dessert, which also includes a Melted Chocolate Cake with Soft Turrón and Berries ($9), you should also try the Ventresca Tuna Pâté, which comes inside hard boiled eggs with caramelized celery over a Spicy Sauce ($8); the (mostly) deboned Grilled Sardines served over Baby Watercress Salad, Crispy Red Grapes, Idizabal Cheese and Fried Capers with Sherry Vinaigrette ($15); and the fresh and flavorful Roasted Beets Terrine with Pistachio Goat Cheese, Fresh Granny Smith Apples & Baby Watercress Salad with Shallot, Honey & Sherry Vinaigrette ($9).
The cocktail menu by Tad Carducci and Paul Tanguay of The Tippling Bros includes almost a dozen cocktails, all $11 or $12, and the most interesting ones are the savory Gastros, which nod to Spain’s culinary flavors with ingredients like red-pepper-saffron syrup, olive powder and even olive oil. The Gazpacho (Recolectore), with Akvavit, tomato, cucumber, Pedro Ximénez sherry, lime, yellow Chartreuse, tastes like gazpacho; and The Paellarhinha (Rochinante), with Leblon cachaça, fino sherry, red pepper/saffron syrup, lemon, tastes like paella! There's also a category of cocktails called "G y Ts," which use gin and tonic, "Spain’s most popular tipple," as a springboard, plus other intriguing combinations like The Howler ($11): White rum, cantaloupe, Castries peanut liqueur, lemon. And, of course, a wide variety of Spanish wine by the bottle or glass, and a number of Spanish and U.S. craft beers
Bar Celona // 104 South 4th Street // Open six-days-a-week and closed on Mondays, serving tapas until midnight.