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Marbella: Staff, food make fine dining a treat in Bayside

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Marbella

220-03 Northern Blvd.

Bayside

423-0100 fax 423-0102

They haven’t changed a thing—that’s an old Spanish custom. Marbella opened in 1967 with a Spanish Pavilion at the Worlds Fair and the Spanish Pavilion Restaurant on Park Avenue. Marbella, named for a town on the Costa del Sol, was a stunning restaurant then, and is still a stunning restaurant now.

In 1974 the “Olds” took over. Service today is finer than it ever was. The senior members of the staff have been there in his tux for 22 years. No one has served there less than five. Serving is done with finesse tableside and there’s lots of flambéing of entrees as well as desserts.

Old world continental elegance prevails. One wall is tiled floor to ceiling. The ultra-high-back chairs are covered with tapestry. A small tapestry hangs in the rear and another wall is hung with white, floor to ceiling. And of course, the table cloths are heavy white damask— long, well starched. There’s candlelight in winter which switches to fresh blooms—bull fight red—in the warmer months. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, a harpist plays continental and Spanish music. Victor Gonzoles has been plucking away at Marbella for 15 years,

We arrived at 7:30, a good hour (in the bar/lounge, at a few white clad tables, dinner is served from 3 p.m.) Sangria was the obvious choice but this was not the usual sangria. It is a sophisticated version made on a cart at our table in a pottery pitcher—sweet, medium or dry. Medium was a delight, so much more enticing than the usual. orange, lemon and apple wedges are afloat among the ice cubes.

A white card attached to the menu cover lists the specials (with prices) for the evening. There were several oyster choices and grilled sounded wonderful topped with good sized bread crumbs. Mussels were on the half shell as well, eight giants precisely layered on a plate with a garlic and wine white sauce. They were super, a far cry from stuffed clams. My dining companion (was I impressed) asked if they were fresh-water mussels. They were. He knew from an Adirondack summer at a lake where he dove for them. Having the waiter serve from the side provided a delightful side show—a flambé to the right and lobster and seafood spooned over a mound of rice to the left. Our entree, a special, was lamb osso bucco (Lamb not veal? Why not?).

Do experience lamb osso bucco. Lovely. At Marbella it's served with homemade potato chips, green beans and carrots.

Since my companion thought it would be nice to see how a Spanish omelet differed from the French, I had the very Espanole, tortilla Espanola. I’ve eaten it in Spain and here in New York. It’s about an inch thick, potato laden. It’s often served cold, cut in small squares as hors d’oeuvres as well as hot as a main dish. Marbella has lightened it miraculously by slicing the potatoes ultra thin. And somehow it tasted fluffier and utterly oilless. I nibbled on the small green Spanish olives and celery and carrot sticks from the relish tray with it and it was perfect. I ate half. “Shall I pack it for lunch tomorrow,” the waiter inquired. Yes and no. It will be snacks with a glass of sherry, next day.

You really don’t have to order crepes Marbella to enjoy it for dessert. (But few can resist.) It’s a popular finale, and we loved viewing someone else’s crepes being deftly swirled in the sauce heating in the large, shallow open pan, folded and served with ice cream. One couple had chocolate ice cream, a surprise, but chocolate and crepes goes beautifully. My dining companion had them. There were three, pastry-cream-filled. A touch of whipped or ice cream dusted with cinnamon would have been nice. My flan was the classic, baked in a cup mold, turned out, sauced with caramel and with a bubble-free texture. Espresso ended dinner for me. My companion’s American coffee was half way to espresso.

On this evening, dining was so relaxing, so elegant and so delicious. It’s certainly a spot for a quiet celebration, and they won’t change a thing.

The Bottom Line

Old world elegance. Professional, tux clad, tableside service. Fine Spanish and Continental food. The spot for a quiet celebration.

Chef's Choice

Gambas en Salsa Verde (shrimps in green sauce)...$7.95

Grilled Calamari (shrimps in garlic sauce)...$8.50

Sopa de Aubias (black bean soup)...$4.25

Mariscada en Salsa Verde (lobster & seafood in green sauce)...$24.95

Paella a la Valencia (seafood, chicken, rice, sausage)...$18.50

Paella Valenciana con Longosta (lobster, chicken, seafood, rice, sausage)...$23.95

Escalopes de Ternera á la Madrid (veal scallopine dipped in batter & sautéed in lemon & wine sauce)...$17.95

Crepes Marbella for two/ Crepes for One.(served with vanilla ice cream)...$15.95/$9.95

Cuisine: Spanish/Continental

Setting: Old world elegance

Service: Seasoned pros in tux

Hours: B (American), L&D 7 days

Reservations: Suggested weekends

Parking: Side street

Location: Northern Blvd. exit Cross Island

Dress: Casual

Credit cards: All major. No Discover

Takeout: Yes

Off-premise catering: No

Private parties: To 250

Music: Harp, Fri., Sat, Sun

Smoking: Bar

Noise level: Quiet

Handicap access: Yes

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