[New York] Beso – Spanish Tapas Restaurant

25 07 2011

New York is a pretty interesting place. Initially, I imagined it to be just one large metropolitan city, with similar settings to scenes from “How I Met Your Mother”, where professionals would gather at neighbourhood bars surrounding Central Park to unwind and catch up after a hectic day at work. However, I guess that scene is probably limited to Manhattan, the most upclass of the 5 boroughs in New York. For the other 4 boroughs, Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens and Staten Island, life is just so much more down to earth. Oh I would think that a borough is roughly the same as a supersized GRC (half to 2.5 million people per borough) in our local context.

A few islands surround New York as well, namely Liberty Island where the Statue of Liberty is located at, Ellis Island which is just a short ferry ride from Liberty Island and formerly used as a immigration checkpoint, as well as Staten Island which is a large island that houses about half a million New Yorkers. There’s a free 24-hour ferry service to and fro Staten Island though so that these people aren’t left stranded. The subway operates 24 hours a day too, maybe that’s why New York is called the City that Never Sleeps.

Anyway, my friends and I took a short ferry ride over to Staten Island to try out one of their Spanish Tapas Restaurant and it was pretty awesome. Having just did a short tour of Madrid last month though, I personally felt that the food served here wasn’t very authentic but very much fine tuned for the American palate instead.

From the outside, Beso looks rather dodgy and quiet but the whole scene changes stepping inside. Dim lighting allowed for casual conversations, and the vintage decor with red brick walls added a quaint charm that appealed to me.

Sangria is fast becoming my alcohol of choice. It’s light, fruity and refreshing, very much a fun party drink.

Red Sangria (US$26 per pitcher)

The 3-course dinner set is reasonably priced at US$20.11. There’s quite a decent selection – 4 choices for appetizers, 3 for mains and 2 desserts.

One of the set dinner’s appetizers, the Tuna was overseared but still pretty tasty.

Dinner set 1st course: Sliced Seared Tuna served with sun-dried Tomato Salsa and drizzled with Soy Sauce

I’m usually skeptical about set lunches and dinners so I went for ala carte instead. The lamb chops here are one of their signature appetizers and it’s not hard to see why given that it was so juicy and flavourful. My friends sampled the lamb and cajoled me to stop being so prim and proper and just use my hands to pry the residual meat off the bone so as not to waste it. It took iron will to avoid being swayed by them and stick to proper dining etiquette.

Lamb Chops (US$10.95)

Like a bandito pocket from KFC.

Dinner set 1st course: Fried Chicken Tortilla

Dinner set 1st course: Tomato simmered with cucumber, jalapeno peppers, bell peppers, cilantro and onion served chilled

Dinner set 2nd course: Sauteed Pork Tenderloin in Spanish Sherry Wine topped with fried Eggplant and melted Mahon Cheese, served over dirty mash

Dinner set 2nd course: Mussels, Clams, Chorizo, sauteed in white wine sauce over Penne

I remembered the Bass being really good, but it was still a shade off the Seabass from Rick Stein’s The Seafood Restaurant in Cornwall, England.

Filet of Bass served with sauce of sun-dried tomatoes, caramelized onions, garlic, capers and lobster broth, accompanied with saffron rice (US$19)

I was torn between ordering the Osso Bucco and Paella so I let the waiter choose for me. The Osso Bucco turned out above average, but what actually won me over was the thinly sliced fried onions.

Osso Bucco (US$24)

Something I noticed about Beso is that they love playing with fire. I saw one of the bartenders pour ignitor fluid or alcohol over the bar counter to allow a couple to roast marshmallows. And they did the same for our set meal desserts. Creme de Catalan is the spanish form of the more common Creme Brulee and they ignited the top of it to allow it to caramelize into a lovely warm shade of brown. Theatrics aside, the Creme de Catalan wasn’t to my liking and I felt it was much too solid (like chawanmushi) rather than viscous (like thickened condense milk).

Dinner set 3rd course: Creme de Catalan

The cheesecake was alright but the overkill of caramel sauce just made it much too cloying.

Cheesecake topped with Brown Caramel Sauce (US$7)

We were very satisfied with the appetizers and mains, alongside the reasonable prices. Definitely worth the trouble of a ferry ride.

Bon Appetit!

Beso Restaurant

11 Schuyler Street, Staten Island, New York

Tel: 718-816-8162

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