Manolito's | 1586 2nd Ave. (bet. 82nd & 83rd Sts.) | 212.717.4666 | On MenuPages

I HAD SO this Memorial Day to be a good, fun one. I had even planned to write a PHUDE post titled Fat Monday, wherein I described my PHUDE adventures in barbecue by enjoying some sliders and ribs from Southern Hospitality, then enjoying all-you-can-eat smoked pig (and clams and lobster) at Fatty Crab.

Alas, the latter part of that plan was ultimately not not be as Fatty Crab kept pre-paying waiting in line for over an hour without food of the promise of it coming out of the kitchen hastily. I had to leave 80 minutes after the start of the event, with only a "promise" that I would get my $30 back.

So as I returned home—in another ten dollar cab ride, although that's partly on me—I refused to have the end of my day ruined by a handful of inept managers and cooks, I decided to visit a nice, cozy Nueva Latina resto called Manolito, from which I had previously ordered, for delivery, a delightful Paella Manolito, which included wild mushrooms, duck, chicken, and sausage.

My earlier frustrations were quickly laid to rest as the attentive staff (they had just started dinner service) quickly offered me a gratis pony glass of white port, which I would happily sip throughout the entire, upcoming meal.

I knew I was here for the Paella Christina, which was a seafood version of the rice dish, but, in the interest of further "treating" myself (taking advantage, this Memorial Day, of this "freedom" afforded me by the men and women of America's Armed Forces!), I decided to start of with a ceviche as well. I hanbn't had one in a long while, as I ordered the tuna ceviche with coconut and ginger, hoping it would serve nicely as a contrast to the peppery, spicy main dish that would follow.

The aromas hit me first, with hints of lime, coconut, ginger, and onion. Those tastes were as prevalent in each spoonful, nicely playing off of each other; the sharp onions and "kicky" peppers cutting nicely against the sweetness of coconut and ginger. The tuna still wound up being the star player in the dish, its silky, fatty, tasty properties finally showing themselves once the chewing began.

Then came the Paella Cristina, named after the daughter of the owner (Manolito), who also happens to be the manager and, as it turns out, remembered me from my previous paella takeout visit. Cristina as obviously as big a fan of seafood as I am, as this saffron rice paella came out (in a clay pot, not in a paella pan) brimming with huge shrimp, clams, mussels, lobster, piquillo peppers, and peas.

This was a dish of extravagance, which obviously didn't skimp on the good stuff. The taste and aroma of saffron imparted wonderfully throughout the many elements of this dish while letting individual components speak for themselves. The mussels, by their very nature, a bit more earthy in taste than the clams, which countered by having a bigger, nicely briny belly. Both the shrimp and lobster meat cooked firm without becoming tough or stringy, and was a nice "spongy" conduit to all of the seasonings and residually cooked through oils. Onions kept their brightness as the paquillo peppers kept the flavors richly grounded.

My friend, Darren, happened to be walking by and stopped in to say hello while I was getting through the seafood and rice mountain. I let him have a few bites and he was equally impressed, agreeing with me that. ultimately, "purists" might fault the dish for not being done in a pan, where the oils caramelized all the flavors into the bottom of the pan, making for a nice crunchy texture that compliments the other soft elements of the dish. I am somewhat inclined to agree with them.

Yet, as I've stated in many previous posts, I don't live near the one or two places that might cook paella that way. And In regards to taste, all the right flavors were there. And Manolito's is only 2 blocks from my apartment (although I'd come here for the paella all the way from the west side if I had to!). And although the dish costs 26 bucks, I had a full have left that I couldn't finish to take home—this would make an excellent date dish.

And Manolito would make a great date place as well, nicely decorated, great staff, dynamite drinks (they pride themselves on their house-made, chef-inspired sangrias), and two nights a week they have live Latin music.

After my terrible—and last—"date" with Fatty Crab, I look forward to many future "dates" at Manolito.

Bun Apple Tea!


Manolito Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Manolito's | 1586 2nd Ave. (bet. 82nd & 83rd Sts.) | 212.717.4666 | On MenuPages