Gin & juice at Cata
At 10-month old Cata, the gin drinks come sprinkled with dried roses, planks of cucumber, kafir lime leaves, or any number of edible accessories. In addition to the care for the toppings, the cocktail menu includes a callout to what gin is being used (Glorious, Plymouth, Brooklyn and more) and, even, what tonic is splashed in. So key is the tonic that the bottle comes to the table alongside your drink so you can do your own splashing. The keen eye on the drinks extends to the surroundings. Sunlight streams in through wide-open windows––large wooden affairs with forged iron closures––as if it’s a bar located above the clouds instead of a section of the Bowery populated by kitchen supply stores. Should you fail to notice the details, a tomato plant used as the centerpiece on a large communal table, delicate metal chairs with curving legs, and an open grill for fish a la plancha, the hours of dusk will bring natures spotlight in through the numerous openings along the northern wall to highlight the beauty of this potentially overlooked corner at Stanton and Bowery.
The lengthy menu has a gin-based cocktail for even the lover of vodka (they’ll substitute if you ask them). The drinks you order, whatever their base, are excellent. Served in sparkling tall bar glasses they are, admittedly, the stars of a show that also includes a roster of Spanish bar bites: montaditos (small sandwiches), pintxos, brochettes, plancha and more. The shared plates are best when they’re not meant to satiate.
One of the best dishes, also our first, was pan con tomate which is a traditional catalan food made up of just four ingredients: tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and salt. The plate of crusty bread came alongside a small glass jar filled to the brim with a sweet, pinkish hued tomato jam and a delicate silver spoon to ladle out the topping. Other highlights included: chickpea fritters (that looked like the smaller kin to tator tots and were equally as addictive), a grilled tuscan kale salad (reminiscent of a caesar but with a creamier dressing), soft shell crab alongside pea tendrils and green curry, deviled eggs topped with a fried oyster, and lamb ribs with a side of pickled vegetables, ribbons of dazzling orange carrots and yellow-hued cauliflower usually seen only in Indian food.
Dessert was a dark chocolate terrine topped with salty, crispy breadcrumbs, so dense and dark it felt like I was eating a spoonful of cocoa powder, straight from the tin, and then throwing in my mouth the crumbs from the bottom of a bag of potato chips. Slightly addictive and bitterly compelling, it was an interesting end to our meal.
If you’re not careful the bill might sneak up on you, a few too many drinks, and plates of fried food that won't ever cue a sense of fullness. Here’s what I suggest: go for one or two drinks, one or two plates and then go for a stroll in search of your next New York adventure.