When the restaurant Ureña opened last year, it quickly earned a place in the hearts of adoring foodies, but not, alas, their pocketbooks. Stuck on a drab block without much foot traffic, chef Alex Ureña closed earlier this year, re-opening after a brief makeover as the more downmarket Pamplona. Gone are the foams, the foie gras, and the degustation menu. A tapas menu and hearty comfort food replace them.
Salt Cod Croquettes and Dates wrapped in Bacon (left); Confit Suckling Pig (right)
I started with a couple of tapas. Salt Cod Croquettes ($5) were were delicate and not at all heavy. Dates wrapped in Bacon ($4) offered a well judged mixture of sweet and savory. None of the tapas were over $6, and on a list of appetizers none were over $12.
Among the entrées ($18–24), I was intrigued by the “Hamburguesa,” evidently a hamburger made with beef and suckling pig. However, there are several entrées for two, and we were drawn to the Cochinillo, or config suckling pig, a tender brick of braised pig at $35 for two—Ureña had offered a similar dish at $25 for one.
Like the rest of the menu, the wine list at Pamplona is fairly priced. I forgot what we paid for the wine pictured at right, but it was reasonable, and as it went well with our food, I thought I’d show the label.
The restaurant was full on a Saturday night. Everything we tried was prepared to a high standard, but it is hearty, uncomplicated, and not likely to challenge diners very much. That just might be what Alex Ureña’s customers want right now. We’d rather see him succeed at something—even if it’s not the ambitious restaurant he had before.
Service was competent, but it felt a bit rushed.
The décor at Ureña was much scoffed at. Even after the makeover, no one would call it a romantic spot, but the hard edges of the lighting seem to have been smoothed, and it is now a perfectly pleasant inexpensive restaurant.
Pamplona (37 E. 28th Street between Park & Madison Avenues, Gramercy)