Last December, Justin Severino opened a second restaurant. His first, Cure, is a restaurant we enjoy a lot, as do our friends, so we were excited for his new place, Morcilla, which focuses on Spanish food. It's on Butler Street in Lawrenceville, near Asian Influences. It's very dimly lit inside, so my photos are not that great. I used both my camera and cell phone to take photos then chose the better photo. Our reservations were for 5:30 pm, after we saw The Wizard of Oz, but we were 20 minutes early because somehow we didn't get stuck in elevator traffic or parking garage traffic or other traffic after the show. Happily, we were seated right away.
Admission: the day before we went, I checked out the menu online and looked up Spanish words I didn't know. That was a lot of words. I've never studied Spanish and despite having a lot of friends in grad school who were from Spanish speaking countries or fluent in Spanish from studying the language and also having a SIL from Argentina, I know maybe 4 words.
But you don't have to prepare ahead of time, or try to use Google Translate. Our server was more than happy to explain/translate for us, which was great since I had forgotten what some things were.
We ordered a lot of dishes to try. We ate everything. We enjoyed everything. Here's what we enjoyed:
To start, 2013 Trabanco Cosecha Propia Sidra (6% (4oz Pour)) for SP and Sangria Rojo (red wine/brandy/fruit/herbs) for me. From articles about Morcilla, I have learned that, apparently, the key to serving Spanish cider is in the overhead pour, which creates effervescence. SP liked his sidra.
I really liked my sangria. It's a far cry from the sangria my friends and I made in grad school! It's not as sugary/sweet as many sangrias I've tried, which I like a lot, as did SP. You cannot really see in the photo, but there were wedges of orange and lime, a cherry, fresh mint, and a star anise.
Our first plate: Surryano Ham (Edwards of Surry, VA, pecans, pecan oil). I could have eaten another plate of this.
Jamon-Wrapped Tortilla Espanola (smoked olives). delicious. Sorry I had to share it with SP. Could have eaten more.
Spider Crab Deviled Egg. It turns out I personally do not like spider crab while SP loved it. SP of course thinks I am crazy but he was more than happy to eat 1.5 deviled eggs since he loves them and we never make them at home.
Croquetas - Queso de Cabra (smoked goat cheese, spiced membrillo). Croquetas are a fried dough, but not heavy or sweet like a donut. Light, creamy. The goat cheese was wonderfully smoky - we love smoked cheeses so this dish was a big hit for us. Membrillo is quince, I think.
Croquetas - Jamon (leek ash aioli, crispy jamon). Crispy ham. Smoky ash leek, so good with the creamy aioli.
At this point in the meal, it was time for more cocktails. SP chose a Gin & Tonic with Hayman's Old Tom (Withal, England).
I decided to try the other sangria: Sangria Blanca (white wine/aguardiente/fruit/herbs). Also quite good, a bit lighter than the red sangria.
Croquetas - Castanas (chestnut, smoked apple, burnt sage). More smoky flavor with the creamy croqueta - yum.
Croquetas - Bacalao (salt cod, espelette, lemon-honey). I'm trying to try more fish and this was fried fish. Fried = yummy, right? Our server told me there was garlic in this, I presume in the dipping sauce, which I didn't try.
Inside the Croquetas - Bacalao. I know it's salt cod, but I didn't expect it to be quite so salty. I ate half of one and let SP enjoy 2.5 fried fish croquetas.
Pulpo (octopus, potato & olive oil espuma, patatesa, lime, cilantro jus). Again, me trying more fish. I usually like octopus prepared at a better restaurant and it's actually pretty mild/not too fishy. This was good, the octopus was tender not tough and rubbery and I loved the espuma.
Horrible photo of Pato Escabeche (duck leg, roasted carrot, burnt grapefruit, hibiscus pears). I like duck. I'm still always unsure of committing to it for an entire entree for myself, but this was really good. SP didn't get much of it. Really liked the accompaniments to the duck.
Lamb En Moreno (spiced lamb meatballs, sumac yogurt, golden raisin and leek escabeche). I love lamb. I loved these. I was warned about garlic in the dish but decided the lamb was worth it. That yogurt sauce? So. Good.
Dessert: Churros (hazelnut chocolate, cinnamon crema). Just the right size. I also didn't find the dipping sauce annoyingly sweet. It was smooth and flavorful and so good that when I had no more churro to dip, I used my spoon to eat some chocolate sauce. SP was horrified.
So did Morcilla live up to all the hype? Yes. We enjoyed all the cocktails and food. It was a leisurely meal. We were not rushed. The plates were nicely paced. Our sever was great at describing dishes, checking on garlic for me, and making sure everything was OK. He was present and attentive but not overly so.
We found out that 2 of our friends who also like to try lots of different restaurants had dined at Morcilla the night before we did and enjoyed several of the same dishes. They also felt everything was delicious and service good.
We'll definitely be back and next time, there are a few dishes I am not sharing!