The chef Mikel de Luis—who grew up in Bilbao, Spain, and was a mentee of the many-Michelin-starred Spanish chef Martín Berasategui—was, in mid-March, 2020, able to open Haizea, a tiny Basque- and Catalan-inflected restaurant, on a quiet avenue in SoHo. Luis’s plan, which additionally included group dinners based mostly on txokos—social cooking golf equipment, widespread within the Basque nation for the reason that eighteen-hundreds, that historically comprised solely males however now embody ladies—met its match when the pandemic compelled eating places to shut.
Kobe-beef tartare comes with crème fraîche, a quail egg, and foie gras.
In May, 2020, Luis, keen to begin cooking, started providing takeout and supply; after restrictions lifted, a month later, he constructed a terrace and invited some influencers within the hope of spreading the phrase that Haizea was, lastly, open for in-person (out of doors) eating. For these strolling up Sullivan Street in a pandemic daze, unaware of any such influencers, Haizea appeared to look out of nowhere, a heat, vigorous spot with an formidable menu teeming with tapas’ best hits, heavy on the seafood—a beacon of latest life.
Tender octopus, seasoned with smoky Spanish paprika, sits atop a dense and creamy potato foam.
Courting influencers could sound cliché, however it proved to be an important transfer, as phrase did, certainly, unfold, on Instagram and past, that there was some professional seasonal Basque-style cooking taking place at Haizea. The photos instructed a dramatic story, that includes a parade of strikingly composed plates of croquettes (crammed with cheese or octopus, organized with aioli and micro-watercress), Kobe-beef tartare (coarsely chopped and served with crème fraîche, a quail egg, and foie gras for good measure), and seafood, a lot of it sourced from Spain, that regarded prefer it had simply jumped out of the ocean—scallops with bright-orange roe, head-on shrimp, langoustines and lobsters, alone or all collectively, in a fisherman’s brothy rice dish known as arroz caldoso.
On a latest go to, a good friend and I have been led to the marble-topped bar within the again, which seats eight individuals (for txoko feasts, that includes the entire menu) however that night time was stored to 2 socially distanced events of two. When confronted with questions, our waitress stated, “It’s my first day. I’ll bring the chef.” Luis appeared—high-tops, white chef’s coat, black-rimmed glasses—and, pouring us glasses of ruby-hued Spanish rosé, rattled off components: potato, Iberico ham, Mahon cheese, toast. “You’ll start with that.” We smiled and tried to order white asparagus, scallops, and toasted angel-hair pasta, however Luis shook his head. “The octopus. The baby clams. You like, yes? Lamb chops—I’ll give you extra. O.K.?” O.Ok.!
Luis simmers goose barnacles with bay leaves and serves them chilled.
He was proper, about all of it. The pintxos of ham, potato, and melted cheese on crisp squares of flatbread introduced needs of a a lot bigger sandwich. Tender octopus, smoky with Spanish paprika, atop the most effective sort of potato foam, dense and creamy, was offered on a slab of tree trunk. Luis hadn’t talked about that child eels got here with the clams, however there they have been, wispy white strands mingling innocuously with scores of fingernail-size coquinas, bathed in a buttery parsley-flecked, garlic-laden txakoli-wine sauce, with bread for sopping. Dainty lamb chops have been seared to a crunch, tender and juicy inside.
Seared lamb chops are accompanied by Padrón peppers and potato.
We had heard that Haizea served goose barnacles—bowls of what seem like red-tipped dragon toenails, captioned “Percebes from the north of Spain” on Instagram—however they weren’t on the menu. Did they’ve any? Luis, his eyes broad with pleasure, stated, “Do we have barnacles? Yes, we have them! They are very expensive.” Could we attempt them? “You know why they’re so expensive? Because people kill themselves to get them. They wait for the tide, they have thirty seconds before a wave comes, they dive down, then clack-clack-clack, they get them.”
Jonathan Swift’s quote “He was a bold man that first eat an oyster” can even apply to the barnacle. Luis simmers them with bay leaves, then chills them on ice. For the first-timer, a tutorial: twist off the toenail-looking half, slip again the grey, wrinkled casing, shut your eyes, and chunk. Firm, bouncy, chewy, they style of the ocean. (Dishes $3.50-$42.) ♦