1/24/2012 11:25:00 AM

Jamonera: The Lolita Team Does Tapas in Midtown Village


Over the weekend, Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran launched their latest addition to booming Midtown Village. Jamonera is a Spanish tapas bar, taking up residence in the storefront that was previously Indian BYO Bindi. The new hot spot was inspired by the couple’s recent trip through Southern Spain, where they reveled in the deliciousness of Spanish cuisine.
The pair checked out famed Iberico pigs in Aracena, met with artisanal wine, cheese and olive producers in Rondo and sipped sherry along the Mediterranean coast. Like Spain’s many hidden tapas houses, the 13th Street hideaway aims to provide a showcase for the best flavors and techniques of the region, in an inviting, intimate setting.

As proven by the acclaim showered upon Barbuzzo and Lolita, Turney has a deft touch in the kitchen, and had fun creating the Jamonera bill of fare. “It was hard to decide which dishes to actually put on the menu,” she told us, “There were a lot of great creations to choose from.” The extensive selection features plates of all sizes, from small bites through salads, crostini, charcuterie and medium and larger sharing plates (all $4–$36).

An assortment of banderllias (traditional Spanish skewers) feature combinations like house-brined chorizo, cornichons and jamon-stuffed olives or smoked tomatoes with manchego and piquillo peppers. Calasparra rice (the kind used in paella) is mixed with roasted squash and crisped on the plancha, then topped with shavings of jamon and smoky San Simón cheese. Octopus makes a showing over a deconstructed pipirrana (Spanish potato salad), featuring crunchy vegetables and bits of Spanish tuna.

A “jamonera” is the device used to hold Spanish cured ham while it's being sliced, and there are two of these in the restaurant. Turney notes that in Spain, learning how to hand-carve the meat with the traditional long blade requires apprenticeship and practice, similar to the process of learning how to wield a sushi knife. A wooden jamonera at the entranceway holds serrano ham, and in the kitchen another stand presents jamon iberico de bellota, made from free-range pigs raised on acorns, said to be the finest in the world. Sliced properly, the thin strips of meat melt on the tongue.

Accompanying the food is a varied selection of Spanish libations. Reds, whites and sparklers are joined by what may be the city’s largest collection of sherries, giving fans of vino nearly 20 by-the-glass options ($9-$13) and almost double that by the bottle. Also available are housemade sangrias, and an assortment of bottled beers that includes American craft favorites plus Spanish ciders, a Portuguese lager and Estrella Damm Inedit, a lager/witbier mix that was commissioned by El Bulli’s Ferran Adrià. And there’s more: vermouth. “Wherever we went, people were drinking vermouth with their tapas,” Turney said, noting that she fell in love with the winning combination. “We made an effort to find fantastic red and white vermouths, and we’re looking forward to introducing them to Philadelphia diners.”

The sturdy but elegant vermouth bottles fill one of the shelves behind the 20-ft. copper-topped bar, which is backed with a variety of wines and glassware glinting red from accent lights above. The red theme is carried throughout the interior design - created in partnership with Tim Shaaban of Urban Space Development - blending with the wood-beamed ceiling, European oak floors and dark-brown glass mosaic walls to create a sophisticated but welcoming environment. Fanciful touches come from a custom Carmen mural on the back wall, by New York-based artist Tory Novikova, and a poster Turney created from clippings from old newspapers in Seville, full of news and photos of bullfighters. Around 40 seats fill out the dining room, and nearly 20 more will soon fill the sidewalk outside. Jamonera is open 5-11 PM, Sunday-Thursday and 5 PM-midnight on Friday and Saturday.

105 S. 13th St.; 215-922-6061

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