Palo Cortado is an ideal restaurant in that I will be able to use my visit as fodder when asked to explain en español what I did the past week in my weekly Spanish class, two-and-a-half blocks away. It’s also the only tapas bar in the area—Reds Produce never really caught on and La Mancha, technically in Brooklyn Heights, has always seemed a bit off—so by default, it’s welcome on this burgeoning stretch of lower Court Street.
The food is traditional, straightforward, no gastronomic pyrotechnics in the modern Catalan tradition. And that’s fine. I suspect they’ll reap benefits from Buttermilk Channel’s spillover.
The small square table could barely contain our selection of meats (chorizo, jamon iberico, lomo embuchado) and cheeses (caña de cabra, idiazabal, valdeon). I had idiazabal at home in the fridge, so ordering more when out is a testament to how much I like the smoked sheep’s milk cheese. I always feel like they cut the jamon a bit too chunky in Brooklyn, but I’ve stopped caring. It doesn’t really affect the taste, and they captured enough ivory ribbons of fat in the slices.
There’s something about fried balls of mush that makes them end up tasting the same even though they were crafted from very different and often tasty base ingredients. The goat cheese with truffle honey, jamon with piquillo sauce and bacalao with salsa verde would’ve been nearly indistinguishable without their accompaniments as signals. Croquetas do beat mozzarella sticks with marinara, though.
I’ve had so many versions of patatas bravas in the US and Spain that I don’t even know what’s standard or if there is a standard. Aioli and tomato sauce, one or the other, pimenton, no pimenton, cubed, sliced thinly into rounds, sauce on the top, sauce on the side. These golden squares did have nice crispy surfaces, and a good ratio of lightly spiced tomato sauce and thin aioli. It’s hard to have a problem with a fried chunk of potato.
It’s nice having a walkable place to drink a glass of Rioja and nibble on chorizo and Marcona almonds, but I wouldn’t feel right telling anyone to travel more than a subway stop or two to pay a visit. Palo Cortado is best for lazy locals feeling tapas-deprived.
Palo Cortado * 520 Court St., Brooklyn, NY