Meson of Mixed Blessings
Prepare for some uneven results (and excellent appetizers) at Meson Los EspaÃ±oles
In White Plains, a succession of Spanish restaurants at 135 East Post Road has come and gone. But Jesus D. Martinez and brothers Benito and Juan refuse to go gently into the dark Iberian night. Natives of the northen Galician region, the brothers run the current incarnation, Meson Los EspaÃ±oles. For the brothers’ sake, for Spain’s sake, for my own sybarite’s sake, I wanted to love it.
I didn’t. It certainly looked right, its white stucco walls, wrought iron fixtures and central arched arcade the essence of Spanish rusticity. The wine list was reasonably priced, the bread fresh and crusty, and several appetizers were excellent. We chose ours from the list of boarded specials, though the menu with its chorizo al vino (sausages with chickpeas) and berengena Cartagenera (roasted eggplant with piquillo peppers and tetilla cheese gratin with tomato sauce) was tough competition.
It was family night, so my four- and 10-year-olds joined us. After spending August in France, gorging on snails and mussels, the four-year-old (I’m beaming here) clamored for the shrimp and mussel soup, which had a rich, briny shellfish flavor and large garnishes of shrimp and lobster. The grilled crab cake was crisply seared and chunky, with tender crab on a perfectly sautÃ©ed bed of garlicky spinach. My husband managed to leave me two forkfuls, about the same as he did of the superb roasted quail. But he’s cephalopod-phobic, so I hoarded the grilled baby squid salad for myself. Bad move. Yes, the squid was tender, but the dish was bland.
Our 10-year-old ordered the grilled tuna steak, a gargantuan but flavorless slab accompanied by well-seasoned and tender zucchini and potatoes. The paella arrived in its traditional iron skillet, a steaming heap of shellfish, monkfish, shrimp and lobster. Sure, there was lots of saffron-infused Valencia rice, which was a good thing since the fish was by turn chewy (lobster), mushy (shrimp) and dry (tuna). We held out hope for the marisos Catalan, another carnival of sea scallops, shrimp and lobster cavorting with mushrooms and baby carrots in a russet lobster jus. Its sideshow of pea-studded rice was delectably smoky, but the fish was not seared, as promised.
A dessert trolley held a bevy of beauties: flan, of course, and a nicely caramelized apple tart among them. Most interesting: Braco Guitano, its sponge cake enveloping vanilla custard cream swollen with raspberries and bananas. A few bites and some sips of a rich brew of Spanish coffee, and I could finally detect the faint staccato of castanets.
MESON LOS ESPANOLES
135 East Post Road, White Plains
Lunch, Mon. to Thurs.11:30 am-3 pm
Dinner, Mon. to Thur. 5:30-9:30 pm, Fri. and Sat. 5:30-10:30 pm, Sun.1-9 pm.