It’s that time of year again—when my best friend Kelly stops in New York on her way home to Vermont for Christmas and we catch up over dinner at some new and buzzy restaurant. On Monday, we went to Seamus Mullen’s new tapas place, Tertulia.
They only take reservations for parties of six or more and, according to Ryan Sutton, “at 11 pm on Friday nights, there’s still a wait” so I was expecting to be at the bar for a while. However, when we showed up at 7ish, it was only about 45 minutes for a two top. It ended up being a little longer because Kelly’s sister, Jen, and our friend, Lee, decided to come, too, but we were able to get a bar table and were more than comfortable there, sipping on gin and brandy cocktails while we waited. I wish I had remembered that they serve eight varieties of sherry, or glasses of cava, or hard cider from a big wooden barrel but…next time.
Tertulia is just about the cutest restaurant ever, a mix of a Spanish taverna and a wine cellar. There were brick archways and wooden banquettes and farm-style tables…and holiday decorations! The whole place smelled of pine and garlic roasting on an open fire (there’s a wood-fired grill in the kitchen) and I pretty much wanted to live there forever, or at least celebrate Christmas in the back room. I really can’t stress enough how good it smelled.
After sufficiently annoying the hostess (we were two, maybe three…ok, definitely three…actually four, but she won’t be here for 30 minutes,…wait, she’s here now; she was very friendly and accommodating), we were seated at a communal table in the dining room, right in front of the open kitchen and next to the hearth. We got another round of drinks, red wine this time, and then ordered dinner. First up, crispy brussels sprouts with pork belly and mojo picón a.k.a. just about the best thing I’ve ever had. Charred and garlic-y with fatty pieces of pork, topped with raw, crunchy leaves. Unreal.
Next, we got the Ibérico ham croquettes, because FourSquare told us to. I hadn’t originally thought to order them but thank god for that recommendation! They were perfectly fried and the filling tasted like buttery mashed potatoes. So good. Then it was on to an autumn salad of squash, kale, mushrooms, and Idiazábal cheese in a mushroom vinaigrette. Everything was super fresh, and I loved how the squash was shaved like pieces of cheese. Then: squid stuffed with Merguez sausage and black rice. Again, incredible. The rice, colored with squid ink, was almost crispy, and the spicy, fragrant sausage…just wow. I could’ve had the entire plate to myself and still wanted more.
Lastly, we got the duck entrée. It’s not on the menu on the website so I can’t remember exactly what was in it but it was some combination of roasted duck, figs, fennel, and fried rice. And I’m still dreaming about it. The duck was nice and rare and the whole dish was just smoky, sweet, licorice-y, salty amazingness. I’m not even embarrassed that our server caught us scraping burnt rice off the edges of the plate.
We were all stuffed after that but, since Kelly and I are powerless in the face of a dessert, we ended up ordering the chocolate tart. I didn’t know the combination of dark chocolate and sea salt could get any better but apparently, with the addition of coffee ganache and almond pie crust, it can.
In sum, I loved loved loved this place. Everything we had was fantastic, the space is so warm and cozy, and the service was great. The prices aren’t even that bad. Besides the duck, our drinks were the most expensive things we ordered. The menu is highly seasonal so I’ll definitely be back to try the new dishes, as well as seconds of everything I had on Monday. Go here ASAP.
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