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Our first-ever Williamsburg tapas smackdown!

The Brooklyn Paper
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Now this is awkward.

The other day, The Brooklyn Paper received a call from the owner of Ooba, a new tapas bar on Grand Street in what the brokers like to call “East Williamsbu­rg.”

We like tapas, so we were on the next G train.

Walking to Ooba, however, we came across Xunta, another tapas bar that opened the very same week one block away on Grand Street.

Clearly, it was time for our first-ever Grand Street tapas smackdown.

In this corner, Ooba, owned by the delightful restaurant novice Nyree Martinez. Though she was once working in the financial services industry, Martinez and her husband turned the long-vacant Grand Street fish market into an inviting, albeit cold, space that will take some time to grow into.

Her menu is not standard tapas, but a mix of traditional Spanish small plates (such as garlic shrimp, croquetas, ceviche, olives, chorizo and tortas) and some Latin-American fusion (grilled skirt steak with chimichurri sauce; and “alitas de pollo,” her version of Buffalo wings, for example).

A block away, Xunta has picked up on Grand Street where it left off after closing its longtime spot on First Avenue in West Brooklyn. The wide wood bar, live flamenco every Friday, and omnipresent soccer matches on big-screen TVs give Xunta the feel of a genuine tapas joint, a mood that’s enhanced by owner Gonzalo Fernandez, who is as Barcelona as they come. He said that rent drove him to close the Manhattan bar and reopen in Williamsburg.

OK, so how do the two rivals compare? Use our handy table below:

Sangria

Ooba and Xunta offer distinctly different styles here, with Ooba opting for a sweeter, fruitier drink that you don’t feel until the inevitable second glass. Xunta, on the other hand, goes for a winey concoction that hits you heavy from the start.

Edge: Ooba

Garlic shrimp

The classic tapas dish also offers a perfect point of comparison: Ooba’s version ($8.95) features juicy jumbo shrimp with a scant, and not garlicky enough sauce. Meanwhile, Xunta’s camarons o allo ($7.75) arrive in a piping hot clay dish surrounded by a rich garlic sauce. The shrimps themselves, however, were tough and small.

Edge: Ooba

Croquetas

Xunta wins this category outright, thanks to classic Spanish croquetas. In this case, Xunta offers tuna croquettes ($7) that taste of fish, not potatoes. Ooba’s ham and chicken croquettes ($7.95) were mostly potato.

Edge: Xunta

Other dishes

At Ooba, we also sampled the tapas version of the skirt steak ($8.95), which are sublime. Perfectly charred, yet rare, meat mingled perfectly with the chimichurri sauce for a winning combination. We also tried the crab cakes ($8.95), which are good. Meanwhile, at Xunta, we tried the much-more authentic grilled chorizo ($4.75) and grilled octopus ($14). The chorizo was excellent, but the octopus was bland and rubbery.

Edge: Ooba.

Conclusion

Xunta is clearly the more authentically Spanish of the two tapas bars, and it is a more interesting place to relax (especially during the summer when its outdoor space is hopping). That said, Ooba’s food is a bit better (and a bit more expensive), though its interior space is a bit dull.

Edge: Ooba (slightly).

Ooba [617 Grand St. between Leonard and Lorimer streets in Williamsburg, (347) 335-0373]; Xunta [507 Grand St. between Union and Lorimer streets in Williamsburg, (347) 599-0089].

Updated 5:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Jon from here says:
Ooba rules
Feb. 25, 2010, 2:51 pm
Paul McPherson from Bushwick says:
I like that "Gonzalo Fernandez opwns Xunta." Clearly your editor is a noob.
Feb. 25, 2010, 5:52 pm
Kathryn from Bed Stuy says:
I love you BK Paper, but Paul has a point-

I don't understand how "Xunta has picked up on Grand Street where it left off after closing its longtime spot on First Avenue in West Brooklyn" because the "rent drove him to close the Manhattan bar and reopen in Williamsburg."

Oh well. I'll still try both of these places.
Feb. 25, 2010, 7:13 pm
Jerry Salinger from Park Slope says:
Anyone who reads the Brooklyn Paper regularly knows that Kuntzman is both a noob AND someone who refers to Manhattan as either "Gaphattan" or "West Brooklyn." Use your noodle, readers! West Brooklyn is the city!
Feb. 25, 2010, 10:56 pm
Charmange from Williamsburg says:
Ooh, a tapas based smacky party - I love it. How can you call my bf Gersh a noob? He just loves his junky little clown-town of Brooklyn. Is he wrong for holding a tapas smackdown in east manhattan?
You are clearly the noobs.
Feb. 26, 2010, 3:13 am
Goyo from Los Sures says:
There is no East Williamsburg. There is no West Williamsburg or south or north. There is one Williamsburg let's not distort history for the sake of the Newbies. The Hipsters did not discover new land. Williamsburg stands on its history!
Feb. 26, 2010, 1:44 pm
Charles from Williamsburg (southside) says:
There is an East Williamsburg, but this restaurant isn't quite located in it.
March 3, 2010, 3:49 pm
Simeon from Hartford, CT says:
Oobas was awesome when it first opened! You were able to walk in and get a table and the service was impecable. But like most restaurants after a couple of months, everything went down. I live in CT and come to NY more often then I should to visit fam and hang with friends. I fell in love with Ooba until a recent trip. I had come into NY one night feening for some of there Madura Mash. And was turned away at the door because they was a private party going on. Shouldnt you have at least half the restaurant open to people walking by? The guy (I think he was the owner) told me that he couldnt help me out and that it was a private party. I was extremly dissappointed, Did I mention I was 8 months pregnant at the time! Sorry Ooba, you were good in the beginning, but you lost me respect :-(
Sept. 16, 2010, 12:16 pm
jph from "east" williamsburg says:
Avoid, avoid, avoid Ooba. I work and live across the street. constant late night loudness and antics that draw police attention. The capper? Some poor soul was shot right out front on Saturday, 12/11/10 ~4am.
Dec. 15, 2010, 2:20 am
eh from bushwick says:
didnt finish this sentence boss:

"Though she was once working in the financial services industry, Martinez and her husband turned the long-vacant Grand Street fish market into an inviting, albeit cold, space that will take"
March 26, 2011, 7:45 pm

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