Tapas at La Vara in Cobble Hill

sunday supper at la vara

La Vara is one of those very “Brooklyn” restaurants where you feel like you’re surrounded by a diverse group of people who listen to NPR and volunteer at the local food co-op. On an early Sunday evening, there was the lesbian couple having a date night, the Millenials having a grown up day out, the locals taking their regular seats, and the bridge-and-tunnel Manhattan people (us) seeing how the hipper half live.

you won’t find patatas bravas on this menu

What brought us all together were the acclaimed Michelin star tapas at La Vara. The tapas here is unique in that it features the Jewish and Moorish influences in Spanish food where Middle Eastern flavors and ingredients like eggplants, chickpeas, artichokes and heavy spices were common. The items on the menu here will almost seem unrecognizable to someone used to a more “traditional” tapas menu of patatas bravas and chorizo.

“alcachofas” fried artichokes and anchovy oil
“berenjena con miel” crispy eggplant, honey, melted cheese and nigella seed

Embrace the change, as this is unique tapas that you can’t really get anywhere else. The spicy fried chickpeas is a great way to start, a snack that’s as fun and tasty as popcorn. While the chickpeas won’t make or break your meal, the fried artichokes in anchovy aioli definitely will, and for the better. They’re somehow crispy while retaining their soft and meaty body, and the sauce is a game changer, leaving any other fried artichoke you’ve ordered in the past a distant memory. The crispy eggplant with honey and melted cheese was another popular item, well executed and with the eggplants impressively maintaining a crispiness to them, but I found this dish a little too salty.

“sobrasada con miel” menorcan spreadable sausage, honey and charred bread
“lengua llucmacanes” menorcan braised beef tongue stew, tomato-caper sauce, peas, carrots
“albondigas” lamb meatballs and mint yogurt

The croquetas of the day, which was cheese and Serrano ham, are probably the most familiar thing you might try. They don’t disappoint, but they won’t be the most exciting thing on the roster. Skip the sobrasada con miel, a spreadable Menorcan sausage on a piece of charred bread that tasted like too much carb and salt. If you’re feeling adventurous, and if it’s available that day, try the beef tongue stew. The meat is wonderfully tender, and the thick tomato caper sauce is very good on its own and was meant for dipping some bread into. If those taste buds are too much for you, the lamb meatballs are an excellent alternative, not gamey and accompanied by an excellent mint yogurt sauce.

7 tapas plates later, we were done with our culinary excursion and were back on the train to Manhattan, where the tapas is a little less cerebral and a little more meat and potato. Which is fine, because I will never turn down a plate of egg tortilla or fried potatoes. But for something a little different, Brooklyn’s tapas has the edge.

La Vara
268 Clinton St (between Verandah Pl and Warren St)
Brooklyn, NY 11201
(718) 422-0065

2 thoughts on “Tapas at La Vara in Cobble Hill

  1. I have been a fan of their other restaurant el quinto pino (in chelsea) for years and still go fairly often. There’s some overlap with the menu at La Vara but they also do a monthly specials selection from a specific region of spain. I always love the fried chickpeas and blistered peppers, and then i get something from the specials menu. Their gazpacho in the summer is destination worthy

    1. I just looked at the menu for el quinto pino. I do see overlap like the chickpeas and huevos rellenos, but I like how there are more of the “familiar” items like tortillas and some patatas bravas! Thanks for the heads up!

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