The back room is the place for a full, leisurely meal at La Fonda del Sol.
CUISINE: Modern Spanish
VIBE: Buzzing midtown hub
OCCASION: Business lunch; after-work tapas; group dinner
DON’T-MISS DISH: Grilled calamari, pumpkin seed-crusted lamb, suckling pig, Mexican chocolate cake
AVERAGE PRICE: Appetizers, $9; entrees, $28; desserts, $9
Josh DeChellis has bounced around a bunch over the past few years. He’s what I call a restaurant drifter, a chef with no home.
It all started with the closing of Rocco DiSpirito’s Union Pacific.
And you can taste it in his cooking.
The back room is for grownups who want to talk business in a suit
and exercise their table manners. And each room gets an appropriate
menu. If you want affordable tapas, go to the front room.
If you want a traditional suite of food — appetizer, entree, dessert
— go to the back room. And if you want to eat really well, go to the
back room. That’s where you really sense DeChellis’ talents.
Upfront, they sometimes get lost in the hubbub. Here are some of the
wonderful dishes I discovered in the back room — maybe 50 yards from
the main concourse in Grand Central.
The Cochinillo, or suckling pig: DeChellis takes the whole pig
apart, seasons it, braises it, then crisps the skin on the plancha, and
puts the whole pig back together on your plate. Then he adds the
finishing touches: Marcona almonds, charred brussels sprouts and smoked
The sea scallops tiradito: He slices the – scallops thin as a rose
petal, – layers them over sweet onion, lime juice and a sea urchin
puree, and waits for them to ceviche themselves. The salt cod croquetas
and the calamari a la plancha: Both are traditional Spanish – dishes
and both come to life in DeChellis’ hands.
The front room is hit-or-miss. The oxtail in the “sopa seca” – think
Spanish stew meets casserole – was leather-dry and so were the white
The garlic shrimp cazuelita was nothing more than ordinary. And it
wasn’t the carrot essence or the seasonings or even the salsify – smart
accessories – that spoiled the salmon a la plancha. It was the salmon,
overcooked and uninspired.
La Fonda del Sol is an odd oasis in a midtown desert. People love it
for what is: a convenient stop on your way to the train or a great
escape after work.
For me, it was a great place to rediscover a talented chef.