2010-12-01 / Restaurant of the Week


El Boqueron will soon celebrate its 10th anniversary in Astoria, serving fine Spanish cuisine including tapas and entrees, fabulous wine, sangria and more. A recent facelift added a bright new facade, new entrance and windows that allow you to gaze into the cozy, candlelit dining room. El Boqueron’s romantic, sophisticated interior and cuisine make a meal here very special and is now open seven days a week for lunch and dinner. Some tantalizing new tapas have been added and the prices are reasonable given the high quality and freshness of the classic dishes. Better still, El Boqueron is conveniently located on the corner of 31st Street and 34th Avenue in Astoria, just a short walk from the N train, and a perfect spot for an intimate dinner with that special someone, friends or family.

Your experience begins when greeted by Miller, the charming owner of El Boqueron. He mixed up a wonderful sangria de cava for us which is a new item on the menu made from “cava”, which is Spanish champagne and cubes of fresh fruit. Adding to the ambience, some tables are topped with hand-painted tiles from southern Spain. There is also a nice wine list as well as your favorite cocktails.

Veteran waiter Israel brought us a tapa of complementary olives and vegetables while we decided on the next dishes. Everyone should start with a tapa of “boquerones”, for which the restaurant is named. Ubiquitous in Spain, these tiny, fresh-from-the-sea anchovies are marinated in vinegar, olive oil and garlic, served on a slice of crusty bread that allows them to melt in your mouth. Next came a new tapa of shiitake, crimini and oyster mushrooms sautéed in garlic and cava and topped with tiny calamari. Words cannot adequately describe how delicious it was, so try it for yourself. Croquetas de bacalao are tiny, golden croquettes made with flaky codfish that are crisp on the outside and creamy inside, served with a spoon of zesty tomato sauce.

We cleansed our palates with a fresh salad of baby spinach, crispy bacon and sliced, snowy white mushrooms dressed with light Dijon vinaigrette. Suddenly an intoxicating aroma wafted through the air and we were presented with a platter of “calamares al ajillo” ($8) which are tender, baby calamari in an aromatic garlic sauce that begs to be soaked up with crusty Italian bread (both white and whole wheat varieties are brought to your table). Chicken in garlic sauce is prepared similarly and provides a treat for all the senses, resting next to a portion of their house made fried potatoes ($16 for an entrée). Ask for their tender veal meatballs, prepared in an equally delicious sauce that is spooned on by your server. Another special touch here is French service, meaning that each dish is served from the platter to each diner by the wait staff, using a fork and spoon to equally divide all the savory sauces. “Gambas a la plancha” are shrimp grilled whole, with the heads and tail on, and a sprinkling of sea salt. This dish is worth the little effort it requires for its exceptional flavor ($9).

Cold tapas include their classic tortilla Espanola, an omelet with potatoes, eggs and onion, a plate of savory Serrano ham, manchego cheese or tender, white asparagus marinated in Chardonnay vinaigrette.

If you prefer to enjoy a complete entrée, there are plenty to choose from, including the most famous dish of Spain: Paella Valenciana is one of the most popular, prepared with chicken, seafood, peas and saffron-infused rice. Tender pork tenderloin is marinated in herbs and cooked to perfection, served with vegetables and potato.

After dinner drinks and dessert wines are part of every dinner in Spain. We enjoyed the lightest and creamiest “crema Catalan” set ablaze tableside with a splash of Grand Marnier on top of the caramelized shell. Caramel mocha flan is also delicious as is the apple tart layered with paper-thin slices of apples in a delicate crust. A glass of ruby port wine and a cup of robust espresso will punctuate this wonderful meal.

El Boqueron is planning a special prix fixe New Year’s Eve menu which will include soup, salad, tapa, main course, bottle of wine for two, dessert, coffee and champagne at midnight. Call for more information or visit their Web site. El Boqueron is open Monday through Friday for lunch and dinner from noon until 10pm (11pm Friday) and for dinner all day on Saturday from 3pm to 11pm, and Sunday from 2pm to 10pm.

You’re assured a memorable meal at El Boqueron where the haute Spanish cuisine is enhanced by the intimate, romantic dining room. Buen provecho.

31-01 34th Avenue
(corner 31st St.) Astoria
(718) 956-0107

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