Finding a reasonably priced and authentic restaurant in SoHo seems an almost impossible endeavor. Until you enter in Despaña SoHo.
The grocery store at the entrance is a mandatory stop for the great chorizo and the ethereal Serrano ham. The ham can be also hand sliced, for a minimum and totally worthy surcharge. Bring this cold cuts at home to nurture the addiction to Spanish food that you will develop after eating at the tapas shop.
As you step into the tapas shop, you will be kidnapped by wonderful views of croquets, tortillas and bocadillos. The croquetas de bacalao are masterfully breaded and fried, creating a perfect contrast between the crunchy surface and the tender cod on the inside. The traditional tortilla is a good intermezzo before diving into serious fish. The bocadillo de bonito is simply superlative. A generous amount of super tender tuna belly is stuffed into fresh ciabatta bread. Red bell peppers and tomatoes give a fresh note to the sandwich. Kudos for not adding any sauce: the olive oil successfully integrates bonito tuna, bread and vegetables into a memorable bocadillo without covering the flavors of the main ingredients.
The ceramic cup and dark chocolate treat remind us that in NY there are better coffee experiences than at Starbucks.
Aroma is an Israeli chain with European taste. I like sitting at the bar in front of the windows, watching the city moving on Houston Street. The quality of the espresso is above average but not outstanding. The flavor and texture seem flat, compared to other places completely devoted to coffee.
Nonetheless, the overall experience is good and worth of a review: the service is efficient and polite, the look&feel of the place is modern and pleasant, and – most importantly – the pastries are baked on the premises. The scent of the freshly baked croissants and pan-au-chocolat spreads across the minimal tables, inviting you to enhance the coffee and chocolate experience with a guilty addition of carbs and butter.
It is hard – impossible for me, actually – to resist this temptation.
The lobster blossoms in generous quantity, with a good blend of different pieces. The sauce is not overwhelming and does its job: keeping the lobster pieces together and providing a layer of delicate flavor. The bread is lightly toasted and gives a pleasant contrast with the tenderness of the lobster.
Handling this big boy is a challenging and rewarding task. Your fingers will get greasy with the lobster meat and with the crunchy fries. That’s not problem: most likely everyone around you is doing the same.