Lizarran, Spain’s answer to a new restaurant chain, offers traditional Basque fare in the form of three primary food groups: pinxtos, tapa, and paellas. The brick front façade, situated on Manhattan’s Mercer Street, is adorned with chalkboards and signage advertising the day’s specials for hungry lunchers. Once inside, a long dark entrance way leads through high top tables and banquettes to a spacious bar. Perched on the bar is a glass domed display case of pinxtos (open faced small sandwiches), salivating the customer with color and curiosity.
Lizarran is pintxos heaven, starting with anchovy, crisp lettuce, bright green pepper, juicy ham, creamy goat cheese, and bacon, just to name a few. Sit at the bar, sip on tasty sangria, and snack on a pintxo, either with a triangular slab of Manchego cheese or delicious red ribbons of chorizo. Try the Papas Bravas, mound of crispy potatoes in a bowl with tangy aioli sauce. Gambas al Ajillo is also a winner, a simple concoction of delicately sautéed shrimp and superior olive oil, marrying together perfectly. If you like spce, get the Pulpo a Fiera-slices of octopus on a bed of potatoes dusted with smoky paprika and drizzled with olive oil.
But it’s not only little snacks that make Lizarran interesting-founder Mateo Ferraro “spreads the passion for all things Spanish” in the form of hearty and delicious main size dishes. The Baccalao a la Vizcaina, a salty cod with pepper and onions and piquillo sauce is not as well received as the Lomo de Atun a la Parilla, a loin of grilled tuna served over crispy roasted potatoes. You can’t go wrong with the peasant-style chicken, juicy and moist in a puddle of its natural juices, simplistically and beautifully done with lime and white wine. Out of the two beef dishes served, the best, is the Entrecote a la Parilla-broiled with roasted piquillo peppers and fried potatoes in a mustard seed sauce.
Paellas are also the stars here in Lizarran, that lovely Spanish mix of rice, vegetables, and seafood that’s hard to resist. Lizzaran’s versions are acclaimed as the winner at 2010’s Paella Parade for “Best Use of Ingredients.” Three types are offered: Paella Carne with chicken, pork, and artichokes, a Paella Marisco with calamari, mussels, and shrimp, as well as a Paella Valenciana featuring the finest fruits of the sea and the land.
Lizarran is lively, friendly, but more importantly, the dishes are wonderfully inviting. If you like traditional tapas and Spain’s other culinary delights, then you’ll love Lizzaran. The price is moderate and the variety is plentiful.