Alex Raij and her husband, Eder Montero, have made a name by creating little pieces of Spain in NYC. There’s Txikito, a boisterous Chelsea restaurant offering a slice of Basque country; and El Quinto Pino, a closet-sized bar that wouldn’t be out of place in Jerez. La Vara is different, a cool, white space on a tree-lined, mostly residential block of Cobble Hill in Brooklyn. And the cuisine is different, too, a recreation of one that barely exists anymore. Moorish tones color the orange-scented, lard-enriched rolls and saffron-hued fideua; Jewish ones flavor the hard-boiled quail eggs served with a tahini dip and crisp eggplant drizzled with honey. The wine list is similarly focused on Spain’s lesser-known traditions. The obvious place to start is in Andalucía, once a Moorish stronghold and still the world’s best source of high-acid aperitifs—although a glass of sparkling trepat or pink prieto picudo might also be tempting, and just as good with the crispy artichokes with anchovy-spiked aioli. Thus primed, you’ll be ready to dive into the bottle list, a tight selection skewed toward the high acid and lean (think Ribera Sacra and suckling pig). When you’re finished but not ready to leave, ask what’s on hand for liquid dessert. Beyond the Gran Reserva Don PX, they might have a little Navazos–Palazzi Single Oloroso Cask brandy left to go with those last bites of bombolini.
268 Clinton St., Brooklyn, New York
is W&S’s editor at large and covers the wines of the Mediterranean and Central and Eastern Europe for the magazine.
This story appears in the print issue of April 2013.
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