Saturday, September 6, 2008

Point: Paella

Although I'm a short train ride from Arthur Ashe Stadium, I haven't seen the U.S. Open in person. While eating at Shake Shack, I've caught glimpses of matches on the giant viewing screen in Madison Square Park. And at a Labor Day picnic in Central Park, I scrolled through digital pictures taken by a fellow picnicker who had spent a day at the tournament. I may be missing out on the thrill of seeing the action live, but at least I've enjoyed my food, which probably wouldn't be the case at the stadium's "Food Village." 

Now Rafael Nadal has advanced to his first U.S. Open semifinal, giving me the perfect opportunity to combine tennis and food. What better way to cheer on the Spaniard than by eating paella, his country's national dish? New York City has no shortage of tapas restaurants, including the recently opened Socarrat Paella Bar. But there you'll pay at least $20 for your paella. Instead, I'll head back to Brother Fish Market in Washington Heights. It may be Dominican, not Spanish, but the paella tastes as savory as ones I've had at "authentic" Spanish places. And a generously sized portion is just $6 or $7—the menu board lists the dish twice with both prices. Either one's a bargain.

As the name suggests, Brother Fish Market sells fresh seafood, but patrons can also enjoy the catch of the day without having to cook it at home. Across from the cases filled with whole red snapper and salmon fillets is a counter with room for about eight people. There are also three tables, but the ones closer to the market side of the room smell a little "briney." Menu specials are written on pieces of brightly colored paper and taped above the steam table. Most of the diners speak Spanish, and male patrons get a server's attention by calling her mami. The female staff doesn't flirt back, but they usually remain on the friendly side of aloof. 

We visited Brother Fish Market earlier this summer, and I asked for a shrimp skewer with a side of plantains. It was good, but I kept sneaking forkfuls of Adeet's paella. The rice was loaded with shrimp, mussels, and calamari, showing no signs of stinginess despite its low price. The presentation was simple, but flimsy paper plates and plastic forks were the only apparent signs of thriftiness. The paella tasted rich, as if the flavors had mingled for hours. Good paella takes time. 

I've had frequent paella cravings since then but haven't found myself back in the neighborhood. So, ¡viva Nadal! for giving me a reason to get on the train...not to Flushing, but to Washington Heights.

Brother Fish Market
3845 Broadway • NY, NY
photos by Adeet Deshmukh

No comments: