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stirring the lees with james molesworth

A Night Below 14th Street

Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: Jul 2, 2007 10:37am ET

For our most recent ‘date night’ Nancy and I, along with another couple, decided to check out Suba. If you know me at all then you know I did not choose this restaurant. For starters, it’s located on a named street between two named streets, as opposed to a numbered street between two avenues—and I’m one of those Manhattanites that only ventures below 14th Street about once every three or four years (and only in emergency situations). Plus, the menu is comprised of tapas and small plates for sharing. I prefer large plates and am distinctly terrible about sharing food.

The super-chic, minimalist interior has a small bar area with a flight of utilitarian metal steps that lead to the dining room, which is suspended above a pool of water that throws shimmering light off the white-washed walls. The dining room was full of pretty people, and our waiter—who was a dead ringer for Skeet Ulrich and was wearing a thick black leather wristband—completed the picture. I was ready for the cast of Sex in The City to walk in, and I figured I was in for plenty of eye candy but a dud of a night, food-wise.

Luckily I didn’t get up and leave, because I actually wound up having a delightful meal with some super wines. In fact, it was the wine list—a several-hundred selection list loaded with Spanish wines from both the modern (Numanthia-Termes) and traditional camps (R. López de Heredia Viña Tondonia), along with a host of eclectic choices that show real genuine thought and a love of wine—that kept me in my seat.

I settled on a Barossa Valley Tscharke (pronounced sharkey) Albariño, a fresh, crisp Spanish varietal grown under the warm Aussie sun. On the surface (like the restaurant), the wine was a recipe for disaster in my book. But I was throwing caution to the wind now, and lo and behold, it managed to maintain its fresh, sea salt-infused profile and was a perfect foil for a selection of tapas that included some superb sardines (cured and smoked) and a selection of croquetas of crab, cheese and roasted pepper. (The wine was 89 points for me, non-blind.) Of course, I could’ve used about ten more plates for myself, but I acquiesced and shared the few we ordered.

For our next round of food, we tried the pork belly and smoked potatoes, along with the hanger steak. The pork belly was melt-in-the-mouth, fall-apart-on-the-fork good, and the hanger steak was tender and moist, supported by cherry tomatoes and onions—simple and classic. In honor of my vacationing colleague Kim Marcus (who covers the table wines of Portugal for us), I ventured to the Douro and ordered a bottle of 2001 Niepoort Douro Vertente, which has now gained some lovely mature notes of spice and clove to go with its smoky black fruits (90 points for me, non-blind). As the wine’s supple finish smoldered on my palate, I couldn’t help but notice that all the food was gone—and fast. So I quickly ordered a plate of lamb meatballs to help bridge the gap.

Granted the cab ride back at the end of the night was a bit longer and a few more dollars than usual, and I needed to grab a snack when I got home. But even though Carrie Bradshaw never strode into the room, Suba was worth the trip.

Steve Ritchie
Atlanta, GA —  July 2, 2007 2:01pm ET
I have also ventured to the Lower East Side to try Suba and agree with you that the uber-cool atmosphere belies a relaxed, friendly, and very wine-centric restaurant. The wine director has done well with by-the-glass recommendations for me each time. I usually head to the "named streets" for dining when I am in NYC and leave the grid behind -- perhaps I am numerically-challenged?
Brad Coelho
New York City —  July 3, 2007 8:48am ET
Any wine list brazen enough to splice a Aussie albarino w/ an intelligent gem from Niepoort is certainly a venture worth a slightly higher cab tarrif. Glad you enjoyed, sometimes letting the wife guide us away from our preconceived notions leaves us in a wonderful spot.
Bill Mead
July 3, 2007 5:34pm ET
My question is not related to this subject, but I don't know where else to ask it. In the WS Advance newsletter(for Aug 31), James Molesworth reviewed a Vina Montes 2005 Syrah, Colchagua Valley, Apalta Vineyard. Is this the same wine which is labelled, Montes Alpha 2005 Syrah, Colchagua Valley, Apalta Vineyard? I have been confused by this label previously, and would appreciate getting this clarified. Thanks.
James Molesworth
July 5, 2007 9:00am ET
Bill: Yes, that's the one. We published the name as "Vina Montes Syrah Colchagua Valley Alpha Apalta Vineyard"...
Elizabeth Mullins
New York, NY —  July 9, 2007 4:37pm ET
James, thanks for highlighting one of my favorite NYC wine lists--there's always something to suprise/entice and Roger (who put the list together and is always happy to talk about it and make suggestions) is a real pleasure. Suba also does tastings, featuring wines from specific regions of Spain, for anyone interested in learning more about one of the most exciting wine producing nations around.
Zachary Ross
Brooklyn, NY —  July 10, 2007 10:52am ET
Wow, I'm completely blown away by your uptown-centrism. You really ought to get out more. The restaurant scene downtown is far more interesting than above 14th Street.
James Molesworth
July 10, 2007 2:07pm ET
Zachary: It was written tongue-in-cheek. A bit of self-deprecating sarcasm, if you will. Sorry you missed it...

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