La Vara is named for a Jewish Newspaper written in Ladino, that was run in New York until 1948. The food is considered to be Jewish influenced Spanish Food. Coming from a Syrian background, I can definitely recognize these influences in the fabulous food coming out of this kitchen. Think eggplant, chickpeas, rice, artichokes, dates and almonds, infused with spices such as cumin and saffron.
On my first trip here we were with another couple and although I remember enjoying the meal, the portions are small and I don't think I really got a true sense of any specific dish. Even though La Vara is one of the few Brooklyn spots that take reservations (for parties of 4 or more), I almost recommend coming just 2 people. Last night we were able to sit at the comfortable bar, we got a ton of great food to share, and left feeling satisfied and happy.
We started with the Citrus & Herb Marinated Olives, Spiced Fried Chickpeas, and Fried Artichokes with Anchovy Aioli. Get all of these. The chickpeas were addictive, artichokes crispy and perfect, and the olives were warm and spiced. We also got the Anchovies with crispy bread, sesame and hazelnuts. I like anchovies and enjoyed but if you are not a fan you can skip. Do not miss the Crispy Eggplant with Honey, Melted Cheese, and Nigella Seed. Don't be fooled by its unassuming appearance, it's DELICIOUS.
The flash fried Peppers were a special that night, and if you like these they are salty and spicy at La Vara. Another don't miss item if you enjoy a whole fish, is the Salt Baked Fish (was a Spanish Dourado on my visit) that comes whole and you can lick the meat right off the bones it was that tender and flaky. I don't know what is in the sauce but it was tangy but also sweet and really was fabulous.
For dessert we went for the Egipcio which is orange blossom scented date and walnut tart with lemon curd and sweet cream. Perfect. Not being a huge dessert fan, I was pleasantly surprised and impressed. Great end to a great meal.
La Vara is a great addition to the Brooklyn neighborhood. It actually does live up to the hype. Try it. I know I will surely be back.
Neighborhood: Cobble Hill, Brooklyn
Bite Mark: ***
Good For: Date Spot, Neighborhood Gem
La Vara, 268 Clinton Street bet Congress & Veranda Pl 718-422-0065