When I booked my 36 hour work trip to NY in November, I immediately put a note in my calendar to book Estela NYC as soon as reservations opened (a month in advance). I had read wonderful things about it and was looking forward to trying. I went with a dear friend in NY and her mystery boyfriend (who had been living abroad for ages so I had never met). I thought I would have a work dinner but was cancelled last second and I was so glad they were free!
We walked to the restaurant from her work and Estela NYC is on the second floor of a small building on East Houston. We hung out at the crowded bar area for a while catching up and sipping some vino (their cocktails list is very cool but their wine list is their pride and joy). I wish she lived in London as we could talk for days and never see the time pass. Her boyfriend was running late (and I even debated if he would ever show up and really existed) so they had two give our 8pm table away. When he showed up around 8:35pm sadly there were no tables for 3 and we had to wait till 9:15pm (aka 1:15am UK time). But I had the adrenaline pumping with excitement to be with friends and forgot I had a cold and was still on UK time…
The restaurant is indeed very small so it was understandable we didn’t get a table faster but we were ravenous when we finally sat down.
What we ate:
Burrata with salsa verde and charred bread: I had heard that this was a must order and amazing and it was tasty indeed. The burrata was a bit less “falling apart” than others I had encountered but was soft enough to provide great texture contrast with the charred bread hiding underneath. The salsa verde made it a bit more creative and unique versus your usual burrata tomato salad or prosciutto.
Razor clams with horseradish shavings: we debated ordering this and happy we went for it. Razor clams can be very tricky as they can be rubbery and unpleasant. This one was still firm but in a nice way and the sprinkles of toasted bread crumbs and the horseradish shavings made it very original and unique. The menu changes daily so when I checked the menu tonight while writing this they were gone btw……
Fried arroz negro with squid and romesco: this dish was visually “interesting” as it looked like a big rice cake but when you started eating, suddenly you encountered all these hidden little treasures such as the baby squid and morsels of rice that were more fried or crunchy than others. The flavors were so unique and delicious. The romesco just added some moisture and was clearly identifiable.
Ricotta dumplings with mushrooms and pecorino sardo: oh my….how do I even start to describe one of the best dishes I’ve tasted not just in a while but maybe top on the list of best ever? I guess one way is the fact that after each of us had one dumpling, we looked at each other, rolled our eyes and asked: “should we order a second portion”? I never order two of the same dish but the thought of having just a couple more dumplings was painful as I wanted to keep eating. They looked more like gnocchi but were pillowy soft and swimming on an earthy mushroom jus and topped with the very thinly sliced and round shaped pecorino. Unfortunately picture is not showing the little perfect dumplings hiding under the cheese……
Cod with mushroom, potatoes and gem lettuce: autumn on a plate – the fish was perfectly cooked – tall white cod, very flaky and tender served with potatoes and mushrooms in a lovely sauce. The gem lettuce was warm which was unique but I am not sure needed in the dish apart from adding to it visually with its bright greenness.
Before opening the lettuce package….
Parsnip ice cream with chocolate caramel: this was the host’s favourite dessert and was definitely unique and creative. The chocolate caramel was hiding underneath and I think it would have been cooler if you could actually see it. Maybe if it was served on the side and you could add/pour. The Parsnip flavor was very evident, but in a good way, but I grew up with corn ice cream so I appreciate what others would consider weird ice creams. A must? Nah……
Chocolate cake with whipped cream: The cake was baked on the dish (or at least seemed like it did) and was underneath a mountain of whipped cream and all the textures were sort of similar. I found it ok and not great and mystery boyfriend agreed but my friend Kama loved it. Again, I prefer to see the cake, and then have something on the side, and obviously, I always prefer ice cream with my cake instead…..
In Sum: we all agreed it was one of the most creative, fresh and delicious dinners we have had in a long time. Creative but yummy, interesting without sacrificing flavors! And was effortless – didn’t seem they were trying too hard…..The dumplings were obviously the highlight and the desserts could use some work….but overall, the meal was comforting and transcendent (the waitress used the expression to describe the dumplings but I am stealing it to describe the overall meal). And this is a clear example of a restaurant you can’t wait to come back to, again and again!
47 East Houston Street New York, NY 10012