Bread, eggs, potatoes, rice.
Some might call these utilitarian staples the materials for drab workaday meals. At the brand-new Tertulia, they are elements of transcendence.
Modeled after the cider houses of northwestern Spain, Tertulia marks the return of Seamus Mullen, who previously ran the kitchen at Boqueria.
His rabid fans have already thronged Tertulia's brick-walled space. When we visited, the food-afia was scattered across the restaurant: two Times writers, including Frank Bruni, a Food & Wine editor and Andrew Carmellini of The Dutch and Locanda Verde.
The cooking, we discovered, is even stronger than the buzz. The Spanish menu hinges mostly on shareable plates, and tostas (toasts) are the menu's delicious anchor. Bread is piled with crab and pickled peppers ($12), topped with a primal mishmash of potato, egg and jamón Ibérico ($10) and the pan con tomate is saturated with high-season tomatoes ($5).
Then egg and potato appear again in the sublimely simple tortilla Española ($6; click here for the recipe). Rice is tossed with snails, fennel and wild mushrooms, crisped on la plancha and served in an elongated whorl ($16).
We plowed through much of the menu, and every dish was astonishingly good. The crowds are madness, but Tertulia warrants the wait.
Tertulia, 359 Sixth Ave. (at Washington Pl.); 646-559-9909 or tertulianyc.com