More details are now out for Ernesto’s — the promising new Spanish restaurant headed to the Lower East Side from a chef with experience at places like Alinea, Frenchette, and Frankie’s Spuntino.
It’s the first solo project for Ryan Bartlow, who most recently was the executive chef at popular steakhouse Quality Eats. Here, he’s pivoting to one of his longtime passions, food from the Basque region of Spain, and it will now be opening late fall at 259 East Broadway, at Montgomery Street.
The restaurant will launch with dinner in its main, 50-seat dining room, but eventually, a coffee shop and bar serving pastries and pintxos (snacks) will be in the space as well.
At dinner, the menu, which is still in flux, will be separated out into pintxos, soups and stews, fish, meat, and desserts. Pintxos could include fried sweet shrimp, or seared foie gras with griddled corn cake and quince, while stews could include one with lentils, Iberico pig ear, and cuttlefish. Griddled scallops with Iberico pig fat and espelette pepper, roasted suckling pig with sweet peppers and stewed prunes, and red wine-braised oxtail are among the bigger dishes.
Dessert sticks with the Spanish influence, too. Expect options such as a Basque cannoli, an apple sorbet with Spanish olive oil, and cheese ice cream in beet juice. And natural wines will accompany the food. Pintxos will likely start at $7, and entrees for one will verge into the $30s, though steak or fish for two could be higher.
The chef’s been cooking in fine dining restaurants for years, including in his hometown of Chicago, and he helped turned Quality Eats into a buzzy and well-liked modern steakhouse. He also helped open the James Beard Award-winning Frenchette, where he says he created the Spanish tortilla that’s on the menu.
The interest in Spanish food stems from Bartlow’s early 20s, when he worked at San Sebastian’s three-Michelin-starred restaurant Akelarre and lived above a traditional Basque tavern near it. After a childhood in the Midwest without much seafood, the product and technique there was eye-opening, he says. “I think just the level of respect for the product, seasonality, hidden technique within everything — it opened my eyes to things I never saw before,” he says.
As such, food at Ernesto’s features plenty of traditional Basque dishes, like clams and rice or hake jowls in a green sauce made of fish stock, garlic, and parsley. Other dishes will display influence from across the region and Bartlow’s working resume, like chicken croquetas that will come with caviar, an homage to fried chicken and caviar.
Ernesto’s is opening on a block that’s still sleepy for restaurants, though it’s just a short walk away from the increasingly lively area right around Mission Chinese Food near the East Broadway subway stop. It was chosen, though, in part because Bartlow has lived in the neighborhood for more than a decade. “Ideally, you want to make a place you would like to eat at,” he says.
Stay tuned for more.