Located at 700 Harrison Ave in SoWa, Estragon has been on my “must eat at” list for quite some time. Several friends have suggested I try this place — that I would love it. One friend (and fellow food blogger) in particular, The Food Monkey, loves this place and recently filmed a demo tape for a new Food Network show here. I was invited to attend the taping, but alas, was tied up with something else… so missed yet another opportunity to finally get there.
So when this past Friday night rolled around and I realized that D (the husband) and I had a date night scheduled, I figured “why not, let’s see if we get into Estragon”. To my dismay, they do not participate in Open Table’s online reservation system. You can call the restaurant to make reservations… but those who know me in my “real life” know that I HATE the phone. So I didn’t call. I figured we’d wing it. It was a nice night, so if all else failed, we could just tool around the city until we found a place with availability.
We got into Sowa around 6:30 and decided to do a drive-by… to our delight, 4 of the 5 outside tables were still open. DONE! We immediately got a parking spot on the street (meters stop at 6pm) and were seated right away. Our timing was great, because no less than 5 minutes later and all the tables outside were full and the inside was filling up fast. I only got a quick glimpse of the interior, but it had a great feel and it was clear the atmosphere is funky and fun. On their website, they describe their style as:
Inspired by the supper clubs and salons of 1930s Madrid, Estragon brings old-world charm and a bohemian flair to the tapas experience. The menu focuses on the fresh and the simple, traversing the entire culinary landscape of Spain, and with an all-Spanish, all-affordable wine-list, a night at Estragon is like a night in Madrid – or the very next best thing!
First up were drinks. The Cocktail Menu is limited to a “beer, wine and cordial license”… so they only hard alcohol they can serve are those which are considered “cordials” (read: contain sugar). So, if you’re looking for a vodka tonic, you won’t find it here. The Beer List is quite extensive and interesting because of this.
D and I were both in the mood for cocktails, so I went with The Winston, a combination of Chartruese, St. Germaine and muddled apple. D got the The Rosalita, made with brandy, Campari and citrus. All cocktails are $9, not bad in my book. As soon as I got my drink, I remembered why I don’t like Chartruese… it’s just too medicinal for me. The color is awesome; the taste? Not so much. I was able to get it down… but it took some effort. D wasn’t a big fan of his drink either…. though, it tasted exactly like I would expect that combination of ingredients to taste. I didn’t think it was bad at all.
Soon after, a nice half-load of crusty bread arrived, alongside a small dish of EVOO.
Being a tapas place, we opted to order many of the small dishes… rather than dinners. The menu consists of both and is broken down by “type” of dish (pintxos, vegetables, seafood and meat). I love tapas for this exact reason… the smaller the plate, the more things I get to taste!
First up was the Esparragos Verdes y Aceite de Limon, green grilled asparagus with lemon oil and sea salt ($8). The asparagus was fresh and crunchy, with a nice, subtle lemony taste.
Next to arrive was the Gambas al Ajillo, sauteed garlic shrimp ($11). This is our default tapas, as I like to call it. We get this at every tapas place we try. It’s like our “gold standard”… plus, we love shrimp and love garlic even more! This dish was nice. The shrimp were sweet and succulent and the garlic oil was delicious. I heard the table next to us say they weren’t a big fan of this dish, because it was too salty. Let me preface this by saying I LOVE SALT. While the dish was definitely on the salty side, trying to put my personal love of salt aside, I do not think it was too salty. It also had a nice red pepper bite to it.
Arriving soon after was the Queso de Cabra con Tomate, warm spanish goat cheese & tomato on toast ($7). This is a pretty traditional dish… not too much to say about it other than it was tasty. There was plenty of goat cheese and the bread was nicely toasted.
By now, we had finished our cocktails and were ready to move on to something else. D asked for a “traditional mojito”, but when it arrived, he thought it tasted a bit sweet. The server informed us that he had to “get creative” with it and make it with mango rum. This was fine, except D would have preferred to be told this ahead of time… I agreed. For my drink, I got the Pineapple Mojito, traditional, but made with pineapple rum. I loved it.
So, this is where I got daring and things got interesting. Historically, I have been a non-red meat eater AND really only eat poultry in very small doses — rarely ordering it out. Over the last year, I have been trying really hard to expand this phobia. So, based on my suggestion, we got the Higaditos de Pollo Salteados, sauteed chicken livers, Sultan raisins, sweet sherry, and creme fraiche on toast ($8).
The presentation and aroma were amazing. Now, just so you know… I have had chicken livers before (whole), but it’s been many, many, years. I took a bite into my first piece, making sure had a little bit of everything and my immediate reaction was DELICIOUS!!! Then I kept chewing and well, wasn’t a huge fan of the amount of liver. If you’ve never had liver, it’s a bit gamey, grainy and pasty. If you like chicken livers, you will love this dish. If you’re not a big fan, I suggest making sure you slice the liver into smaller pieces.
Overall, I actually (and surprisingly) enjoyed this dish more than D did. He only had one bite and I ate the rest. That said, I left at least 3 lobes of the liver laying on the plate though. I preferred it as a more subtle addition to the dish, rather than the dominating presence it had.
The last to arrive was the Vieiras con Crema de Albarino y Azafran, seared scallops with saffron albarino cream and fried leeks ($14). Just one word… YUM! Though, $14 for just two scallops was a bit steep and I wasn’t a huge fan of the fried leeks. This has nothing to do with the dish though, they actually tasted great as part of the presentation. It has more to do with the texture. I’ve had them before and suffered the same issue… they make me gag because it’s impossible to chew them and thus, they get stuck in the back of your throat. TMI? Sorry!
There was one other dish we ordered, but my stupid camera battery died before I was able to take a picture. It was the Patatas Fritas, french fries, aioli and salsa brava ($7). The interesting thing about this dish is that it was vegan, despite the aioli. I wanted to ask what the aioli was made out of (since it clearly did not have mayo/eggs in it), but I kinda forgot. It was pretty good though… but I couldn’t put my finger on the ingredients. And while we’re on the topic, the nice thing about this menu is that the dishes are labeled “V” for vegetarian and “VG” for vegan. A very nice touch!
Overall, a great experience. I definitely recommend Estragon and we will be going back. Next time I want to sit inside so I can get a feel for the atmosphere.