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Pimenton’s stylish setting matches its cuisinePimenton’s stylish setting matches its cuisine

Pimenton is named for the smoky-sweet Spanish paprika essential to many of its recipes. The restaurant occupies two stories of brownstone with a downstairs tapas bar and dining room, an outdoor garden (used in good weather), and an additional dining room upstairs. The ambiance is spare but cozy. A stone fireplace gives the primary decorative focus to the downstairs dining area. Many of the walls are bare. A few more paintings wouldn't be out of place. Surely some of the many talented Long Island City artists would love to mount exhibitions on the unadorned walls.

We began our evening with (what else?) tapas. According to some, tapas originated when, due to an illness, the Spanish king Alfonso the 10th, the Wise, was advised to take small bites of food with some wine between meals. Once recovered, the wise king ordered that in all inns of Castile's land, wine was not to be served without something to eat. The word tapas comes from the Spanish verb 'tapar' (which means to cover). Early tapas were most often a slice of Serrano ham placed on top of a drink to keep flies out.

There were no flies to worry about at Pimenton, but the tapas were fantastic. While sipping a fruity but potent sangria, we happily grazed on an assortment of tapas. Pimenton's bar emphasizes wines and sherries of Spanish origin, and my dining companion, a wine connoisseur, savored his Rioja - Ramirez De La Piscina '99. All wines are available by the glass as well as by the bottle.

With careful consideration, we chose four tapas, but suspect we could just as easily thrown darts at the tapas menu and been equally delighted with the results. The descriptor on the menu of "seafood salad" for Salpicon de Mariscos doesn't begin to hint at the indescribable deliciousness of this dish. The simplicity of mixed seafood in a vinaigrette with chopped onions, garlic and mixed peppers yielded an unexpectedly delectable result, attributable to the quality of the ingredients.

Sardines à la Plancha bear no resemblance to the little fishies crowded into the can with the key. These are four-inch, plump, fresh sardines simply grilled with olive oil, herbs and sea salt. Again, the freshness and quality of the ingredients reigns supreme.

Nothing could have been more succulent than the Chulettas De Cordero (grilled marinated baby lamb chops). These bite-sized chops did time in a marinade seasoned with garlic, rosemary, bay leaf and thyme.

Our final tapa was Vieras, sea scallops pan sautéed with leeks and butter. Their flavor was more delicately subtle than some of our other choices, but no less delicious.

Working our way through the rest of the tapas menu would have been a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend the evening, but there were still Segundo Platos (entrees) to be tried. We chose a very traditional Paella De Mariscos (seafood paella) and a special of the day, hanger steak.

The paella, in the style of Valencia, was superb. It comes chock full of lobster, calamares, clams, shrimp, mussels, monkfish and sea scallops in a fragrant fish bouillon flavored with saffron. This dish is only served for two or more, and requires a 25-minute wait (not a problem when you're munching those tapas).

Hanger steak is the part of the diaphragm that hangs between the last rib and the loin. It is an extremely tasty cut if marinated, more popular in Europe than the United States. Pimenton's toothsome rendition was sautéed with shallots and served in a reduction of Rioja wine and brown sauce.

Our meal was completed with Torrijas, Pimenton's signature dessert. This dessert is essentially French toast that been drizzled with Torres Orange liquor and served with vanilla ice cream. A nice selection of after-dinner drinks of Spanish brandies, liqueurs and sherries are available, as is Spanish cappuccino, a sweet, frothy variant on the Italian version.

The Bottom Line

Enjoy top-notch tapas and classic Spanish cuisine in a charming Long Island City brownstone with a fireplace and a garden dining area. Save the trip to Spain.

Pimenton

21-50 44th Dr., Long Island City

718-707-0442

Cuisine: Tapas and Classic Spanish

Setting: Intimate. Brownstone with two dining rooms and outdoor garden.

Service: Attentive

Hours: L & D Mon-Thur, Saturday, D only.

Reservations: None

Parking: Street

Dress: Casual or business attire

Takeout: Yes

Private parties: Yes. Upstairs capacity 40. Downstairs 50. Garden 40.

Credit cards: Yes

Noise level: Lively to boisterous depending on your fellow diners.

Handicap accessible: No. Restrooms upstairs.

Recommended Dishes

Salpicón de Mariscos (seafood salad)...$8.95

Sardinas à La Plancha (sardines grilled with sea salt)...$6.95

Chuletitas De Cordero (grilled marinated baby lamb chops)...$8.95

Vieras (sautéed sea scallops with leeks and butter)...$5.95

Croquetas (chicken, ham or codfish croquettes)...$5.95

Montaditos De Carne (grilled bread topped with slices of filet mignon & manchego cheese)...$8.95

Solomillo (charcoal grilled filet mignon in a Priorat, red wine sauce)...$26

Paella de Pollo y Mariscos (chicken, chorizo, and seafood paella) ...$18pp, min. 2

Paella De Mariscos (seafood paella)...$22/pp min. 2

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