37 East 28th Street between Park and Madison Avenues
$180 for five people, with drinks and a lot of comps, with tip
I can’t say that I remember much of our night in Pamplona, but when you dine with four other women, you’d bill forgetfulness as a good thing, too. I was half an hour early, so I sat at the bar for a glass of wine. Being Filipino and alone, I’ve gotten used to being approached by men with the “Are you Philippine?” line. The older man next to me was such a gentleman, I couldn’t refuse his offer to recommend and buy me a glass of Spanish white wine. Of course, it turned out that his daughter-in-law is Filipino. My friends arrived and more rounds of complimentary drinks followed.
When our new friend left to catch his Knicks game, we were finally seated. We’ve made enough ruckus in the front of the restaurant that Chef Alex UreÃ±a stepped out to introduce himself. We were famished and ordered the entire appetizers menu to share, and later, the chef sent out several other plates with glasses of sparkling wine to end our night properly.
Some of the memorable dishes included the asparagus salad with thinly-sliced chorizo, topped with frisÃ©e and baby greens and dressed with pimiento. A meatball dish with eggplants disappeared quite fast, too, with a semi-sweet sherry sauce. I’m not a big fan of shrimps, but the Manchego rice made them fuller and beefier. A suckling pig dish was described by one of my Dominican friends as something better than Christmas pork.
One of the things that makes Pamplona irresistible is the fact that the chef serves the dishes he is familiar with, albeit, minus the foam that he learned at El Bulli and experimented with at his first restaurant, UreÃ±a. Nothing is complicated on the menu, but most of the dishes were straight-up delicious. Tapas fans will also be glad that the prices won’t break the bank and critics will appreciate that the previous interior design has been stripped to make the space more intimate and inviting.