El Born skews toward the stylized latter. It oozes Catalan chic, from its long marble bar to the not-trying-too-hard-but-ridiculously-attractive staff to the circular neon pink installation-slash-light-source that provides a welcome break from Edison bulb mania. While cozy, it's a neighborhood restaurant that feels big-city in the outer reaches of Brooklyn.
Classic Spanish flavors are here, but the presentations are a step above your typical tapas joint. Gorgeous grilled baby carrots, radishes and fennel rest on a bed of romesco sauce. Airy goat cheese croquettes ($8) are served on not-too-sweet apple compote; the chocolate-and-spice rub on two tender quail legs ($14) becomes a sort of dressing for frisee tendrils and grapes.
Dipping hunks of rabbit — coated in chestnut flour and then fried to a golden crispness — into a dense, lemony aioli was our favorite part of the meal ($14). Served in a brown paper bag strewn with herbs and garlic, the dish is sort of like the restaurant itself: a little rustic, a little modern and very cool.