Bar Jamón — literally “Ham Bar” — is the front end of the Batali–Bastianich Spanish double-header, the other being the restaurant next door, Casa Mono. The two share a wine list and prep space, and some guides describe them as one restaurant. Even the owners have trouble deciding: some of their literature lists the two places separately, but they share a common website.
Anyhow, it’s a tiny space that holds about 25 people, including those standing at the bar, where there are no stools. There are light tapas, generally in the $7–11 range, along with the crazily expensive Spanish hams that give the place its name. These set you back $15 or $30 a portion.
The star is the 24-page all-Spanish wine list, probably the best of its kind in New York. It’s hard for me to believe that anyone would plunk down $1,950 for a magnum of 1989 Vega Sicilia and then drink it on bar stools. But if you want it, Bar Jamón has got it. Even for more modest budgets, Bar Jamón has plenty to choose from, with bottles as low as $30.
Like all of the Mario Batali–Joe Bastianich restaurants, wine by the glass is served in a quartino or, in Spanish, a cuarto, which is good for about a glass and a half. In that context, the $12–25 price range is fair, and I was happy with both that I tried — the 2005 Mustiguillo ($15) and the 2006 Jiménez-Landi ($17).
As we had reservations at Casa Mono afterwards, I didn’t order any food, and the staff didn’t try to sell me any. The munchies here aren’t expensive, but unless you order some, you aren’t going to get anything extra—not even so much as a bowl of nuts. It appeared that about half the patrons ordered food, and half didn’t.
Bar Jamón serves as Casa Mono’s “waiting room,” though it’s too successful for its own good. By 6:00 p.m. on a snowy Friday evening, Bar Jamón was nearly full. I didn’t mind standing at the bar and admiring the bottles perched there. If you want a seat, expect to wait.
Bar Jamón (125 E. 17th Street east of Irving Place, Union Square/Gramercy)