Tertulia is a type of restaurant that is very of the moment in NYC today:  casual and unpretentious yet fanatical about premium quality ingredients and seasonality; rustic, in an authentic rather than gimmicky way; and showcasing unabashedly muscular, almost primitive cooking.  Seamus Mullen, formerly of Boqueria, roasts everything from whole fish to paella in his hand-cranked wood-burning oven, imbuing the northern Spanish dishes with a flame-licked smokiness.  

The design of Tertulia is exactly what you would expect: weathered brick walls, tarnished mirrors, wooden barrels (filled with Asturian cider, incidentally) and specials scrawled on chalkboards.  The room is long and narrow, with scuffed white brick arches framing the open kitchen at the end of the room.  A leg of Iberian ham sits at the ready on the counter. 

If Jamón Ibérico de Bellota, the ham made from black Iberian pigs that feed only on acorns at the end of their lives, was all Spain had contributed to human patrimony, it would be enough.  Mullen serves an exemplary version of it here, smoky, floral, dense and smooth.  Nuestras Patatas, cubes of crispy potatoes spiked with pimentón and smothered in garlic aioli, are arrestingly good.  An incredibly thick and tender octopus is grilled and served simply with olives and lemon. 

Tertulia arose out of Mr. Mullen's captivation with sidrerias (local cider houses) in the Asturias region of northern Spain.  One of the reasons that Mr. Mullen's formula is so winsome, notwithstanding the interminable wait and lackluster service, is that his passion comes through in such an unfiltered, authentic way.


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West Village
359 Sixth Ave.
New York (nr. Washington Pl.)
Sunday through Thursday 5:30 to 11:30 p.m.; Friday to Saturday 5:30 p.m. to midnight; brunch Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
    Seamus Mullen, Chef
    Anup Joshi, Chef de Cuisine
    Ken Orsi, Sous Chef
    Gil Avital, Beverage Director