As of spring 2020, one of the most popular dishes on Instagram was undoubtedly a pile of thin, crunchy potato chips laced with delicate ribbons of Ibérico ham. This sumptuous, dreamy mound became Insta-famous shortly after the opening of its home, Ernesto’s, a Basque-inspired restaurant on the Lower East Side. It’s the debut solo project from chef Ryan Bartlow, an alum of Frenchette, Alinea, and Akelarre, a Michelin-starred spot in San Sebastian, Spain. Barlow’s time cooking in this mountainous region has informed the menu of his first restaurant, with dishes like stewed leeks and turnips, salt cod in pepper sauce, and braised beef cheek with potato puree.
The rich, luxurious food is accompanied by a natural wine program from French sommelier Pierre Derrien, whose list features bottles from lesser-known regions of Europe, as well as an aperitif cocktail program led by Sarah Morrissey that offers a healthy dose of vermouth. All of this can be enjoyed in the spacious, natural light-filled, 40-seat dining room designed by Michael Groth, with the help of Bartlow and his decor-minded friends. Details include exposed brick walls, an original Joan Miro lithograph, and a long, green marble bar, as well as custom chandeliers, ceramic sconces, and a bevy of antique objet.
Since opening, the team has also opened a small cafe space next door, which serves coffee and decedent pastries by day and wine and bites by night.