Exploring NoLIta: Brunch at Estela
Knowing that I had limited time in the city, I schemed and plotted to ensure that I hit as many of the best restaurants as possible. I find that as I travel more frequently, I am able to tweak my "foodie reconnaissance". After perusing the World's 50 Best List and Michelin Guide, I usually narrow down the heavy hitters. Can you believe that there are 72 restaurants that received Michelin stars in 2017? Astounding if you ask me! For good measure, I usually check out a few of my favorite food blogs and sprinkle is some places that are up and coming and not necessarily on everyone's the radar. Don't you all do the same? ;)
Throughout my research, one place that continued to surface was Estela. Located in NoLIta on Houston Street, Estela transformed the space that the Knitting Factory Music Venue previously called home into a dynamic restaurant serving up Mediterranean-inspired food incorporating flavors of the city throughout each dish.
Arriving for our brunch reservations, we climbed the steep staircase that leads into Estela. Estela is currently perched over Botanica, one of New York's famous dive bars. Entering the narrow dining room, I was shocked to see so many people still brunching on a Saturday. It was 2 o'clock after all and I was not expecting such a boisterous crowd. We were escorted to the back of the restaurant in the most darling little wine nook. Simply perfect. We settled in and began studying the menu. For brunch, Estella serves many small to mid-sized dishes that are meant to be shared amongst the table. I would encourage ordering 3-4 different plates so that you get to try a variety of things from the menu without being overly satiated..Unless you have dessert. Whoops :)
In true tapas fashion, each dish was served as it was finished in the kitchen. We started our meal with the famous Burrata with Salsa Verde and Charred Bread. Such a gorgeous, bright dish, although the salsa verde was far from what I expected. It had more of a juice than salsa consistency. Soaking in a combination of celery, cilantro, sorrel, and green garlic, the charred bread had a chance to absorb some of the flavorful goodness making each bite that much better. Staying true to my southern roots, I may have used the bread to "sop" up some of that tastiness.
Around the corner was perhaps my favorite dish from Estela, the Egg, Pancetta, and Avocado sandwich. This dish literally had me swooning. While I have had my fair share of breakfast sandwiches over the years, I have yet to encounter anything like this. Layered upon a tebirke, was smashed avocado, pancetta and the most amazing over-easy egg I've ever had. I know some of you must be wondering what the heck a tebirke is, I know I was since I have yet to encounter it the south. A tebirke is a type of Danish puff pastry that is covered with an abundant amount of poppy seeds and filled with a butter-sugar-marzipan mixture. (For this sandwich, the pastry was not filled with the marzipan mixture.)
I reveled in each bite as the savoriness of the pancetta, and egg yolk was complimented by the sweetness of the tebirke. Did I mention the spiciness of the dish? Um, totally winning. Chef Mattos thew some sriracha in for good measure. To be 100% honest, this was one dish I wish I didn't share. I could have eaten an entire sandwich myself.
Right around the corner, our server presented us with the Slab Bacon with Dijon, Potato, and Egg. Such a stunner. On the quest for the perfect bite, I paired the golden egg yolk with a bite of bacon and the tiniest bit of dijon. Perfection. Realizing that we still had one more dish arriving, I had to put the fork down and walk away. It was hard but necessary.
While I was conducting my "foodie reconnaissance," several blogs featured the upcoming dish and had nothing but rave reviews. Having little regard for the amount of food we ordered, or my ever expanding waist line, I pulled the trigger and ordered the Ricotta Dumplings with Mushrooms and Pecorino Sardo. Beautifully plated, the ricotta dumplings were covered with the finest slices of mushrooms I have ever seen. I thought to myself, "they must have one hell of a kitchen mandoline in the back!" I hated to destroy this lovely masterpiece, but I wanted to get to the treasure underneath.
I expected the dumplings to be somewhat like gnocchi, but I was pleasantly surprised to find out how light and pillowy they were. Of all the dishes, this one was not as filling as I expected it to be and it was perfect for sharing, but with the caveat that everyone loves mushrooms. :)
Just as I thought we were finished, after all my stomach was waving a white flag, the table next to us got dessert. Normally, it wouldn't be a big deal, but they could NOT stop talking about how amazing it was. Naturally, I had to see for myself. One Chocolate Cake with Whipped Cream coming up. Each bite of warm molten chocolate cake ( which might I add is gluten free) was insanely tasting. I enjoyed each decadent whipped cream covered bite.
Ladies and gentlemen, there is a reason that Estela is ranked number 44 (2016) on the World's 50 Best Restaurant list. Each dish exhibits a unique flavor profile that is sure to satiate your palate. Estela is quite small, so I would recommend making reservations here. If you are fortunate enough to make it for brunch, do yourself a favor and order that egg sandwich... PLEASE. Until next time!