Food, fire, and frivolity at Ostia
Grilled Vegetables and Goat Cheese
113 Seventh Ave. South, at Christopher St.
Years ago, when I was merely a freshman in college, I was in a play about sex and power in the New York City 90s. On opening night, as the curtain went up, I lit a cigarette and my hair promptly caught on fire. What happened next is a blur. All I can remember is a collective gasp and that I somehow managed to put the fire out with my hands.
After I realized that my nose hadn’t melted off my face, I briefly thought of running out of the theatre, withdrawing from school and moving back home to the Florida beaches for the rest of my life. But a fleeting image of the wrinkled old tan lady from the film “There’s Something About Mary” brought me to my senses, and I was able to continue in the play. So what if the smell of burnt chicken permeated the entire auditorium. I was an actress!
This past Thursday, at the restaurant Ostia in the West Village, I was reminded of that smell. As my friend and I were leaning in to pose for a picture, her curly locks brushed the lurid flame from the tabletop candle and went up in a blaze. It was like reliving some horrific actor’s nightmare. My friend immediately doused the fire and fled to the bathroom only to hear a nearby waitress yell, “It smells like burnt chicken in here!” Five minutes later we were laughing about the incident and the rest of the evening became a total, unmitigated blast.
I share this story because I believe it is very apropos of my dining experience at Ostia. The food is very good but it is not the star of the show. The ambiance is. The staff makes you feel right at home creating a casually hip vibe that is perfect for re-living old memories and forming fabulous new ones. That’s the reason to visit this unassuming little joint. Ostia is actually a tapas bar describing itself as a “modern Spanish establishment with old world sensitivity.” I completely obliterated my health kick once again and went to town. In this case, Seville. We ordered the patatas bravas (fried potato wedges served with spicy aioli), pisto con cana de cabra (grilled vegetables sprinkled with goat cheese), setas a la parilla (sautéed mushrooms), tortilla con setas (potato omelet with mushrooms) and pintxo moruno (pork skerewers). Lots of tasty little things, but nothing came close to the coquette de Jamon Serrano (ham croquettes) and these meatballs that were so delicious, I wouldn’t have noticed if my entire head of hair was covered in flames. I was so thrilled by these little pleasure balls I completely forgot to remember the name of the dish. Sometimes you have to forgo the details in order to embrace your inner pig. If you’re there just ask them to fry you up some balls. That will at least get their attention.
The ham croquettes were blissful, deep fried pieces of finely chopped serrano and cheese flanked by a garlicky crust so crispy, I ordered another round. It was ridiculous, I know, to insist on one more order of this dish. If I had been thinking clearly, I would have insisted on six or seven.
Next time I am in, I’ll save the calories spent on the under-seasoned potato omelet and stick to the meats and cheeses. The patatas bravas were good, particularly when doused in a pimento-based spicy aioli, but the dish was a bit uninspired. Next time, I’ll sample the chorizo a la cerveza en salsa picante (spicy paprika sausage in beer) and the trio de quesos (selection of three cheeses). So take a trip down Ostia. Perhaps you need to add a little fire to your life.
Ham Croquettes, Sauteed Mushrooms
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