Best New Restaurants in the Hudson Valley 2011: Spanish Cuisine at Panzur Restaurant, Tivoli, NY
Dine on Spanish cuisine at best new restaurant, Panzur Restaurant, in Tivoli, NY
Executive chef and owner Rei Peraza mans the “action station,” the farm table set out for service at Panzur. The specials are listed on the blackboard behind him
Photographs by Jennifer May
For a country village, Tivoli has quite the array of eateries. There’s Mexican at Santa Fe; vegetarian at Luna 61; Japanese at Osaka; and New American at Madalin’s Table. The latest addition, Panzur, which opened last May, adds to this culinary diversity with Progressive Spanish fare, focusing on tapas, small plates, charcuterie, and cheeses.
“Everyone loves the tapas style,” asserts Jeff Boyle, who runs Panzur Restaurant and Wine Bar along with his friends, chef Rei Peraza and Rei’s wife, Kim, who own it. “It’s the way we like to eat when we go out — we order one of everything and share... We wanted to open something special,” Boyle adds. “From the beer and wine to the food — high quality without being pretentious. I hate the term ‘fine dining,’ but in that realm.”
The result is a menu of classic Spanish bites (garlicky shrimp, house-cured duck breast, pig belly and other pig-centric fare) along with several entrées that include sweetbreads, a jazzed-up version of steak frites, and fideos, a noodle dish with seafood and chorizo. If you want a feast, $425 will buy you a roasted heritage suckling pig that feeds up to a dozen. Late night snacks include patatas fritas and crispy pig ears with saffron yogurt to dip them in.
Front of the house manager Jeff Boyle (above) mixes a cocktail at Panzur. Below, tomato salad is garnished with pickled corn relish, bacon, and Valdeón cheese
Top quality meats, cheeses and produce come from nearby farms or are imported from Spain. “We get Iberian black-footed pigs from Spain,” Boyle says. “They’re raised on acorns and widely believed to be the best pigs in world.”
The son of a Spanish father and a Venezuelan mother, Chef Rei Peraza grew up in Miami; his culinary influences “blend nicely on the menu,” Boyle says. The restaurant is a tribute to Rei’s grandfather, a chef in Barcelona whose portly figure earned him the nickname Panzur — a hybrid of his given name, Manzur, and “panza,” the Spanish word for belly. Rei cooked at restaurants across the U.S. before returning to the Hudson Valley, an area he’d come to love when he was studying at the Culinary Institute.
The trio took over the space formerly occupied by La Porcini Cucina. “We pretty much gutted the place,” Boyle says. “We redid the bar, added copper work along the rails.” Walls are painted “a nice slate gray called Man Cave,” he adds with a smile, and the light fixtures are handcrafted. The relaxed, modern interior has a few rustic touches, like the large farm table — the “action station,” as Boyle puts it, where hams and cheeses are sliced to order.
Beer lovers can enjoy drafts from craft brewers like Sixpoint, Kelso, and Pretty Things or large-format bottled beers like Estrella Damm Inedit, designed to be paired with food. Many house cocktails use “the same flavor profiles as Rei’s food,” Boyle says. “Right now, we’re steeping bourbon with black tea. It’s mixed with lemon juice and it’s coming out really well. It’s called Black Pig.”
Speaking of pig, how are the pig’s ears going over in rural Dutchess County? “A good amount of guests are trying them,” Boyle reports. “We also have potted pig’s head. Some people are a little freaked out in the beginning. Sometimes, if they’re on the fence, we’ll send it out to a table and they love it. It becomes a favorite.”
Bottom line: Tapas and small plates from $8 to $17; full plates $20 to $23
Crowd pleasers: Black fried squid with squid ink aïoli, and pig belly. “And the croquetas are amazing,” Boyle declares
Diners’ verdict: “Highly original” with “charcuterie to die for”