I want to tell you about my favorite place to drink Sherry in NYC, a tapas bar called Palo Cortado. Palo Cortado is actually a restaurant with a full menu, and it serves a wide and interesting selection of wine and beer. You can go there and have a "normal" restaurant experience, with an appetizer, an entree, and dessert. But I'm going to talk about Palo Cortado in the way that I experience it, as a tapas bar.
Let me start by saying this: Palo Cortado has as good of a by-the-glass Sherry list as anyplace I've seen. There are about 20 Sherries on the list at any time, and wines rotate in and out.
This is a place where you can drink interesting wines in each category of Sherry, wines that can be quite difficult (in some cases, impossible) to find on retail shelves. There are lovely Finos and Manzanillas, interesting Amontillados and Palo Cortados, and several examples of Moscatel and Sweet Pedro Ximenez wines too. The most expensive wine I've seen, I believe, is the Bodegas Tradición Amontillado at perhaps $20 a glass. That's right - you can drink things like Bodegas Tradición Amontillado, by the glass, at Palo Cortado. The least expensive is the extremely delicious Emilio Hidalgo Fino at $6. Think about it - you can sample Sherries of all types for very reasonable prices, play around, try new things, expand your understanding of this forgotten (but perhaps now re-discovered) great wine of the world.
The wines are served in Sherry glasses and this is a great decision, particularly with the brown Sherries. I think Amontillado and Palo Cortado wines show best in these copitas, benefiting from the focus the glass confers. I prefer the way Fino style wines smell and taste out of white wine glasses, but copitas are fine too, and it certainly feels more like a tapas bar that way. Alessandro Piliego (pouring, above), who goes by Sandro and is one of the owners of Palo Cortado, is a true believer, and will be happy and excited to pour various wines for you, to talk about them with you, to support you in exploring the bottles he offers. If you go, you should talk with him - you will feel as though you have been well taken care of.
Palo Cortado is a destination place, it's worth traveling to because of the great Sherry selection and the great service. The food can be good too - there are dishes that I love to eat at Palo Cortado and I always enjoy my meals there. But the reason to travel to Palo Cortado is the great Sherry and the great service, and there are also some good things to eat. And I should say that I've never tasted even one of the main dishes. I order tapas, that's it.
To me, the most delicious and very best thing to eat at Palo Cortado is Jamon Iberico. Sandro simply does this right, no question about it. High quality jamon, aged two years, cut by hand into thin (but not too thin) toothsome and highly perfumed slices. A plate of jamon is served with large caper berries, Marcona almonds, fig bread, and pickled Basque peppers. A little bread on the side, a nice glass of Sherry...what could be better? I usually drink Palo Cortado with the jamon, like the wonderful Emilio Hidalgo Marqués de Rodil, but Sandro recommends Fino, and I tried this last time and it was great.
The other tapas that I always enjoy at Palo Cortado include Pulpo a la Gallega (tender octopus and potatoes with vinegar and lots of pimenton), Empanadas, which are completely home made and stuffed with delicious flank steak and melted Tetilla cheese, Patatas Bravas (fried potato chunks in pimenton and aioli, the Tortilla a la Cazadora (mushoom and potato omelet), the Albondigas de Cordero (lamb meatballs) and a frequent special of fluke crudo with grapefruit. And if you think about it, along with the spectacular (I would say, best in NYC) Jamon Iberico, that's plenty of tapas. Order a plate or two with a copita, and when you and your friend finish, order another plate or two and another copita, and continue until exhausted or the bar closes.
Another thing I appreciate about Palo Cortado is that it actually reminds me of being in Jerez. Okay, every tapas bar I can think of in Jerez and surrounding environs shows you many of the tapas you can order - they sit under glass and are served from troughs as you order them. That's not going to happen here, and that's fine. But the decor is right at Palo Cortado. Not too dark, not bright at all, some interesting paintings around, and they perfectly hit that critical mix of giving you enough space and somehow maximizing the hum of conversation from other tables.
And there is tile. Tile at the bar.
Tile on the tables.
You can always walk around and look at the paintings if you like.
Or sit at a table near the sultry painting in the back.
If you are interested in Sherry, and want to go beyond La Bota, go check out Palo Cortado. It might be a bit of a trip for you, yes. But you like Sherry, you're interested and curious. It's more than worth the trip.
520 Court Street, Brooklyn, between Huntington and Nelson.
Cash and Amex only.