Socarrat

Socarrat—aka the good stuff at the bottom of the best paella in NYC

By David Farley

Socarrat—even the word itself is delicious. From the Spanish socarrar, meaning “to singe,” socarrat is the most essential part of a paella experience: crispy, singed rice that clings to the bottom of the plus-sized paella dish—the table centerpiece of any paella-eating party. This hidden flavor-gem takes the dish to new heights; the chef achieves it by turning up the heat at the end, thus toasting the bottom of the pan.

Socarrat Paella Bar is a lot like its namesake ingredient: It does the behind-the-scenes—or, if you will, the bottom of the pan—things very well. Now a trio of locations in Chelsea, Nolita, and Midtown, Socarrat is the brainchild of chef and owner Jesus “Lolo” Manso, a native of Valladolid, Spain. Sure, Lolo offers tapas, too, but unlike many a Spanish destination in the city, the focus here has always been on the paella. But before indulging in the very edible medley of ingredients, one has to learn how to properly eat it. In this case, let’s take the eponymous house dish, a veritable surf-and-turf, from stovetop-to-table feast in a pan.
While some Spaniards fork ingredients straight from the pan into their mouths, you might consider using the large serving spoon provided, to scoop the paella onto your plate. Before you dig in, though, the essential rule is to not just mix everything in there together—instead, scrape the bottom of the pan to unearth the toasty morsels of rice. Commence eating and note the diverse flavors: shrimp, beef, chicken, white fish, cuttlefish, mussels, cockles, and fava beans. And mixed into all of it is the socarrat, adding toasty notes and a crunchy texture to everything. Without it, it just wouldn’t be good paella.

Socarrat Paella Bar has the technique and the preparation expertly down pat. But there are plenty of other things on the menu to tempt your taste buds, too. Sip on a gin and tonic—all the rage in Spain the past few years—and graze on tender beef cheeks paired with a green apple compote, crispy Brussels sprouts, and chopped almonds drenched in a sweet and sour glaze. A fork-tender block of roast suckling pig also makes the perfect foil to round out the pre-paella feasting.

hours

Nolita:
Early Dinner: 4 PM–7 PM daily
Tuesday Flamenco Dinner: 7 PM–10 PM
Brunch: Sat–Sun 11:30 AM–4 PM

Midtown East:
Early Dinner: 4 PM–7 PM daily
Lunch: Mon–Fri 11:30 AM–4 PM
Brunch: Sat–Sun 11:30 AM–4 PM

Chelsea:
Early Dinner: 4 PM–7 PM daily
Lunch: Mon–Fri 11:30 AM–4 PM
Brunch: Sat–Sun 11:30 AM–4 PM

price range

$6 (pan con tomate) to $33 (lobster paella)
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