“I am passionate about food; it is one of the most gratifying pleasures in life. To me, eating is like a ritual, an expression of one’s soul.”
—Jesus ‘Lolo’ Manso, owner of the Socarrat Restaurants
Señor Manso began the Socarrat Paella Bar in Chelsea in 2008. We have eaten at two of the three Socarrat locations. The original is in Chelsea. Another is in the Manhattan area called NoLita, or North of Little Italy, another concocted real estate designation.
The Chelsea location is long and narrow with tall tables and stools. The NoLita location is arranged with communal tall tables and stools, plus standard tables with chairs. Each location features wood details and exposed brick walls: a comfortable atmosphere.
Start the meal off right: order a pitcher of sangria, which yields a fair amount of alcohol for two people; it is very good and packs a lasting kick! There are tapas choices. I like the roasted almonds and olives; I could make a meal of them alone! The fried artichokes are heavenly.
The paella choices are wide, mainly meat or fish. There is a vegetarian option too. Each paella takes about half an hour to prepare. Each offers a generous portion for two people. Service and ambiance are good. The food is very good. With its three locations, quality service, comfortable surroundings and good food, Socarrat is a satisfying change from the usual restaurant choices.
The word ‘socarrat’ refers to the rice that gets crunchy and forms a crust at the bottom and the sides of the pan when cooking paella. Why does crusty rice deserve a name of its own, especially because it is waste that many people throw away?
Genuine paella is cooked in a wide, shallow metal pan; allowing the rice to be spread thinly. With the rice touching the bottom is the prime condition for rice crust to form. Socorrat, from the Spanish verb socarrar, meaning to singe, is a vital part of paella. Think of it as the cherry on the top of the sundae, but in reverse. In order to get socorrat in paella, the heat must be turned up at the end of cooking. This engages the senses. The rice smells toasted, making a crackling sound, and it should offer some resistance when a spoon is poked into the bottom of the pan.
Chelsea, 259 W 19th St.; New York, NY 10011; 212.462.1000
NoLita, 284 Mulberry St.; New York, NY 10012; 212.219.0101
East Side, 953 2nd Ave.; New York, NY 10022; 212.759.0101