Almost a year after opening, Estela still commands long waits for dinners of artful Spanish-inspired small plates. For his brunch menu, chef Ignacio Mattos doesn't slack off, but know that a meal here doesn't come cheap. Estela isn't a dish-per-person kind of restaurant, so you'll need a couple plates per person, best shared, to come away with a full meal.
Don't skip the Avocado, Pancetta, and Egg on Danish Pastry ($14). Crisp pancetta, aioli-topped avocado, and a sunny side up egg rest between two halves of a Danish-style puff pastry from Bien Cuit. It's called a tebirke, and it's topped with nutty poppy seeds and filled with melted almond cream. As good as a toasted roll or bagel can be for a breakfast sandwich, this is a big step up.
The Eggs, Beans, Croutons, Mojama, and Harissa ($16) is reminiscent of shakshuka. Two eggs with runny yolks rest atop a bed of red peppers, onions, gigante beans, croutons, and parsley. Shavings of mojama, salt cured tuna, add a little chewiness and fishy flavor. The harissa is there more for rounded spice than tongue-searing heat.
Cod with Romesco, Aioli, and Potatoes ($24) is another great dish with hints of spice. It's pan roasted gently until the fish just starts to flake but remain juicy, then served with a spicy romesco made with piquillo peppers, hazelnuts, and sherry vinegar. Olive-sized potatoes bulk up the plate, but it's a small portion for the price, more suited to a light meal than a filling main course.
Though Estela's burrata is plenty lauded at dinner, the cheese to order at brunch is Whipped Ricotta with Pineapple and Coconut ($11), the only time it's available. Ricotta from Di Palo'ss is mixed in a blender until it's silky smooth. Then cubes of sweet pineapple and shavings of nutty toasted coconut are generously sprinkled on top. In the middle lies a hidden treasure of golden pineapple jam, tipping this plate onto the sweet side. You can eat it on bread, but a spoon's the only utensil you really need.
If you're looking for dessert, the choices are limited, but a vanilla Panna Cotta ($10) gets the job done. Honey and Muscat vinegar bring a balance of sweet and tart, and crystallized bee pollen adds crunch.
As of now, you won't need to wait long for brunch, but given the menu's quality and inventiveness that won't be true forever. It's a charming place for a brunch date, but be sure you know what you're paying for.
About the author: Nicole Lam is based in NYC. Follow her travels and eats on Instagram @niclam