Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran, the duo that brought us Barbuzzo last year and are credited with spearheading the revitalization of the Midtown Village Neighborhood with their collection of businesses that includes Lolita, Grocery, Open House and Verde, are set to debut their latest effort Jamonera this weekend. It’s a sexy Spanish tapas bar housed in what used to be their Indian BYOB Bindi. On the eve of its opening, Grub caught up with Chef Turney to get the lowdown on what went into creating the restaurant and what we can expect from it.
It sounds like you're just about ready to start seating guests.
We’re not there yet. We just passed our health inspection and opened up our reservations line. So I guess we’re good to go.
Are you doing Restaurant Week?
We are. We are going to offer come choices off of the regular menu.
Was that originally your plan?
Well, like a lot of restaurants we’re opening later than we thought. We were trying to get it together before the holidays. Then, next thing we knew, it’s Restaurant Week. And I was like, I’m comfortable opening for Restaurant Week. I’m not scared. Bring it.
What’s this, the fifth or sixth restaurant the two of you have opened?
Does it get easier with each new restaurant you open, or is it a whole new ballgame each time?
It definitely gets easier, but each time I learn something new. I make a mistake and learn from it.
How extensive were the renovations to transform Bindi into Jamonera?
We added a bar and completely re-did the inside, but it wasn’t like we were bringing in jackhammers and doing major construction. So, in that sense, it was a lot easier.
How involved were you and Valerie in the look and feel of the design?
We hired Tim Shaaban from Urban Space Development, and told him that we want this to be the sexy older sister of Barbuzzo.
How did that work out?
Very well. It’s dark, small, and there’s, like, a lot of deep red lighting, and leather. And that’s all from what we told him we wanted. I’d say it’s about 90 percent him and about 10 percent me and Val.
What’s with the “Carmen” theme we’ve heard so much about?
We have an illustration from a woman named Tory Novikova, who is an illustrator and fashion designer in New York, that’s of the opera Carmen. It’s set in Seville, and we saw it pretty early on in the project, so the whole thing came together around that.
Barbuzzo was heavily influenced by trips you and Valerie made to Italy and the Mediterranean. Is the same true of Jamonera and Spain?
Yeah, we took a trip to Southern Spain. When we travel, we always do these culinary trips. Ordinarily we try to plan everything. This time we hired guide and told him exactly what we like to do. It was awesome. We visited all these little village with, like, one street that we would’ve never gone to on our own. He took us down these little roads with “No Trespassing” signs to see Iberico pigs. We all got out of the car and fed them acorns.
How about the jamonera, will there be one in use at the restaurant?
We have two. One is a beautiful and made of walnut wood that will be on display and lit up. And there will be a ham on it. The other one we picked up in Barcelona, it has like a plastic cutting board-like base and is sanitary for kitchen use, and that will have the acorn-fed Iberico ham on it that will be sliced to order.
What’s the menu shaping up like?
It’s a very large menu with 30 items. It starts with small, simple tapas, like marinated olives and pickled turnips, and moves on to little croquettes, banderillas, boquerones and skewers. We also have some raciones, which are larger, shareable plates. We also have a chicken tagine on the menu that’s served with a housemade duck sausage. We have a lot of, like 13, vegetarian items, too.