Reign in Spain

The return of Spanish chef Luis Bollo

The luster of the broken pieces of angel hair pasta in the rosejat clenched it for us.

We had already been startled by the crisp fire of the patatas bravas and the bacon-wrapped genius of the quail ($17) at the brand-new Salinas in Chelsea. Then, the supreme deliciousness of the toasted noodles ($23), chockablock with chicken, cockles and spicy Spanish chorizo, reminded us that the Italians do not have a lock on pasta.

For this, we have chef Luis Bollo to thank. He ran the avant-garde Meigas at the turn of the millennium, before disappearing from Manhattan. Bollo has returned with Salinas, and his food now encapsulates an even broader vision of Spain.

From this vantage point, pan amb olli is a Mallorcan take on tomato bread, featuring, for now, an emulsion of spring garlic. In a nod to his hometown of San Sebastián, he braises artichokes and cockles ($13) with pocha beans and effervescent Txakolí. Zippy gazpacho ($9) is finished with beets and berries, celebrating early summer.

Those patatas bravas ($7) might be the best we've tried, their cubes all spark and smoke. The desserts, too, are fine: torrija caramelizada ($8) is French toast gone Spanish with a crackly sugar crust.

And the secret to the sheen on those noodles? A whole lot of saffron aioli.

Welcome back, Chef Bollo.

Salinas, 136 Ninth Ave. (at 19th St.); 212-776-1990 or salinasnyc.com