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La Fonda del Sol

Whatever happened to La Fonda del Sol? Not Joe Baum’s 1960 masterpiece, but its reincarnation six years ago? It got the deuce from both Frank Bruni and Adam Platt—favorable reviews by their standards—but quickly fell off the media map.

Opening chef Josh DeChellis left after two years, as anyone who knew his background would’ve expected. Chris DeLuna has been there since 2012, though you wouldn’t have known it from any of the websites that report on New York City restaurants. The owners, Patina Restaurant Group, seem utterly innocent of the word “marketing”.

I was drawn back by a Valentine’s Day prix fixe of just $55. That’s a bargain, on an evening when mediocre restaurants attract three-figure sums for mass-produced, dumbed-down versions of their regular menus. La Fonda del Sol did the opposite, serving (as far as I could tell) a better menu than their everyday norm. You quickly see why they couldn’t charge more: the place was only about half full.

The food hasn’t lost a step since we visited in March 2009. I’m sure the menu has changed many times since then, but it still seems to be basically the same kind of upscale Spanish cuisine that DeChellis served, although without the petits fours, which at the time were some of the most luxurious I’d seen in New York.

The 20-page wine and spirits list has one of the better selections of Spanish and Portuguese wines in town, including the 2007 Douro we enjoyed ($65; above left). It was a romantic evening, and I didn’t take detailed notes on the food. The photos below (not my best, in low light) give a general idea of the style of the cuisine and its presentation.


I didn’t take note of the amuse bouche (above left). The bread service included baguettes with soft butter.


There were a few choices for each course. To start, we had a lobster cocktail (above left) and pork belly (above right).

A spectacular seafood paella (above) was the centerpiece of the meal.


For dessert, we had a flan (above left) and bonuelos (above right)—warm pastries resembling doughnuts without the hole.

Adam Tihany’s gorgeous dining room would be one of the city’s crown jewels, if only it wasn’t in such a terrible location. I’ll grant that the MetLife building, in the shadow of Grand Central Terminal, is no one’s idea of a romantic dining spot. But still, it’s a pity that the owners don’t do more to sell the restaurant’s considerable charms.

La Fonda del Sol (200 Park Avenue at 44th Street, Met Life Building, East Midtown)

[Despite the Park Avenue address, the entrance to the restaurant is on Vanderbilt Avenue.]

Food: Upscale Spanish cuisine
Service: Fine
Ambiance: An elegant white tablecloth dining room

Rating: ★½

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