Simplicity combines with brilliance from high-flying New York duo
What’s the deal here? New York’s very own newcomer to the 50 Best list is a paragon of apparent simplicity, masking depth – of flavour, of research, application and talent. Opened in 2013, it pairs Mediterranean-based cooking of the highest calibre with a small-plates approach, a relaxed vibe and a brilliant wine list.
The duo behind it: Chef-owner Ignacio Mattos, originally from Uruguay, was mentored by the great Argentinian chef Francis Mallman, before working in the US at Chez Panisse in California, Il Buco in Manhattan and as opening chef at the lauded Isa in Brooklyn. Wine director and co-owner Thomas Carter is a former restaurant chef who turned to the wine side, directing the beverage programme at Dan Barber’s Blue Hill at Stone Barns for many years.
A word on the dining room: Unprepossessing. Wooden floorboards, unadorned tables, simple but well-sourced furniture – and not particularly spacious. The menu (a la carte only) offers diners equally unflashy dish titles such as ‘celery with shrimp and lovage’, ‘pork with gem lettuce and farro’ or ‘mussels escabeche on toast’.
And the food itself? Remarkable for its originality and for Mattos’ ability to draw out deep flavours from seemingly regular, if well-chosen, ingredients.
What else: The high-flying pair has recently opened a second joint: Café Altro Paradiso, which offers more specifically Italian fare than Estela’s eclectic mix in a larger dining space.