Thought I'd give Boqueria a try again. Last time we made the attempt it was so jammed we couldn't even get a foot in the door. We went to Pipa and had a nice time but Boqueria was still on the radar to try.
Tapas, in my experience, are tricky propositions for allergic diners or rather for this allergic diner. Whether in NY or in Barcelona, I’ve done best with what’s simplest: tortilla and that's about it. Actually I think that's pretty much all I ate in Spain, wine and eggs and potatoes in some form or other. So, I went to check out the scene but I didn't have high hopes I'd be eating like a Spanish queen.
As many New Yorkers are out of town for the Holidays, 630pm was busy in the back but had free tables up front and no major crush at the bar. A waiter quickly arrived with a long wine menu and the tapas menu. After scanning a few items, I gave him my spiel: "Allergic to nuts and fish. And yes I know this menu will be fishy cos it's Spanish food but is there something on here that I can eat?" He was genuinely surprised that I was allergic to fish; he said he had never heard of that before. I did my best to assure him, even flashing my medic alert bracelet, that I am indeed allergic to fish.
We went through the menu, he carefully pointed out dishes that would be safe versus potential hazards. And it seems that there was a lamb that might be okay and a salad or two and a couple of veggie dishes. When I asked about how the lamb was cooked he said on a “plancha”. I asked if fish was also coked on the plancha? He said not really, just the octopus. Hmm, it was gonna be that kind of night.
Whilst watching the prep guy make my tortilla, rather watching him touch the fish tapas, then the roasted macademia nut garnish, and NOT wash his hands before he went to touch my tortilla slice, I began to get a wee bit nervous. Watching in this instance was not a good thing. As the guy was right there, I approached him, and in my sweetest, please don’t kill me voice, I asked kindly if he would wash his hands before preparing my food as I am highly allergic etc., etc.. He said no problem and seemed to get what I was talking about.
I was happy to see him wash his hands, wipe the knife, and carefully retrieve my slice of tortilla. He was careful not to touch the slice and he put it on the plate without much garnish except some cheese on the side. He motioned for me to come pick it up, which I did only to notice the three small slices of bread he had lovingly placed in the last seconds. I’m sure they bake this special bread in house and that he was quite proud of the…walnut loaf! Yes, after all that careful prep, he placed WALNUT BREAD on the tortilla thus rendering it inedible!
The waiter swooped over to see if our food was okay and took one look at my plate and shook his head. I thought I should cut my losses and move on. I said, “Forget it, I won't eat it and I’ll give it away”, half kidding. The waiter, finally up to speed on the allergic sitch, insisted that the food prep guy would make it again, and make it correctly: plain, no nuts, no garnish, washed hands, and everything. Which he did. Oy. The tortilla was fine, not the best I’ve ever had but it didn’t make me allergic.
After all this food mix-up, what was the scene, the thing I was actually going to check out? Sometimes you can go to a spot that “hot” and it’s a party from the moment you walk in the door. From the host, to your server, to the crowd⎯you just have a blast. Boqueria, on this Tuesday after Christmas, was very couple-y, not too partyish, nor not particularly oozing with hotness. It was okay, fun enough. I wouldn’t run, run, run back.
Oh wait, did I mention that on the way out I was putting on my suede jacket and I mistakenly knocked over a drink on the table next to ours? I heard the crash and thought, “Who did that?” Only to discover that it was me! What an exit to a fantastic evening! The couple next to us was very gracious, they wouldn’t let me replace their drink and were only worried that I wasn’t cut or my jacket ruined. But my, my, my⎯what an exit.
PS: Boqueria won't be on the "restos to avoid" list. It's like going to a sushi joint, being allergic to fish, and writing that it was a bad resto cos I couldn't eat anything. It's not a fair assesment. Spanish food is fishy and a little nutty; I knew it was gonna be trouble. Just how much trouble was the question that was answered.