Whether it's dates or birthdays or bachelorette parties, Pipa Tapas y Mas has become Flatiron's go-to tapas bar for those long and lingering suppers, punctuated by jovial conversation and glassfuls of sangria. At first glance Pipa is hardly the cozy tavern you would expect from a typical Spanish-style tapas bar, given the dining room's ornate chandeliers and antique mirrors—all sporting price tags upwards of $5000. (The restaurant is an extension of neighboring ABC Carpet & Home.)
Luckily, the gaudy décor becomes an afterthought as soon as the tapas and drinks begin to flow. The garlicky scent of Gambas al Ajillo ($14) wafts from just about every table, where diners immediately dig into the plump Ecuadorian shrimp sautéed in butter and chiles.
Scallops a la Plancha ($16) hardly need all the jazz that comes on the plate: caramelized onions, crispy Serrano ham, sautéed spinach and manchego cheese sauce. A well-cooked scallop needs few adornments, but we appreciated all the flavors nonetheless, especially that surprisingly light cheese sauce (often a huge faux pas for seafood).
The waiter highly touted the Bolas de Queso ($10), a trio of goat cheese croquettes with bell peppers. Despite the perfect consistency of the croquette, the "white wine dipping sauce" was as sugary as frosting—a disconcerting contrast to the salty, tangy goat cheese.
Of all the dishes, the Pipa Coca ($13), a Catalan-style flatbread, was the best value. Topped with chorizo, artichoke, tomato and piquillo peppers, the dish was hearty and filling, good as an individual dish or to share amongst diners.
As tapas flow from kitchen to table, ultimately the best way to order here is to follow the nose—if that neighbor's dish makes your head swivel, chances are you should get it too.