Tapas have been trending in a major way for some time now, making “shareable small bites” a fixture on menus all over New York, no matter the cuisine. But Huertas, a new Basque restaurant in the East Village, goes straight to the source of the craze, focusing on the diminutive Spanish snacks known as Pintxos.
Sure, you can arrange for a (reservations only) sit-down dinner in the back dining room, replete with a standard, four-course menu for $52. But what sets Huertas apart is the congenial atmosphere of the bar area, where servers circle with rotating trays of pintxos, passing them out dim sum style (whatever you select is added to a running tab — but be warned, at $2 to $8 a pop, you can end up with a way bigger bill than you bargained for).
The young chef, Jonah Miller, an alum of Maialino, turns out alluring, prettily presented nibbles; generally including — as befits a Spanish restaurant — cured meat, hard cheese, marinated fish, octopus, egg and vegetarian options. Try the briny Boquerones (white anchovies), coiled around a plump pickled pepper on a toothpick, crusty Cod Croquettes, a musky dish of Wood-Roasted Mushrooms flavored with smoked garlic, and when the need for something sweet strikes, a stack of nubby, cinnamon-dusted Churros, meant for dipping in a shot glass of melted dark chocolate.
There’s also a selection of Conservas (tinned seafood), like Mussels, Scallops and Clams, sourced from the excellent Spanish specialty store, Despaña. Incidentally, Huertas is currently running a “Cans and Conservas” promotion; including some bread, your choice of fish and a beer, for $12. Although it would be a shame to go for suds when they also carry an assortment of ciders, like the funky Isastegi ‘Sagardo Naturala,’ sold by the 375 or 750 ml bottle. Heck, just add one to the tab.