A few months ago, Chelsea tapas bar El Quinto Pino annexed a dining room next door to its 400 square foot bar. For the first time in its history, cooks didn't need to step outside to reach the walk-in fridge. And the extra space, a whole lot bigger than the original bar, allowed for real tables and chairs and, glory be!, a chance to sit down for a proper meal. Oh, and did I mention they take reservations?
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From a distance, the tiled mosaic sign announcing 100 Montaditos in a vaguely Basque font and diners standing around the marble-topped bar could almost fool a passerby into thinking this isn't a typical West Village watering hole. The cheap eats Spanish chain couldn't have picked a better location for its recent New York City debut.
Ken Oringer's five Boston area restaurants—including the flagship Clio in the Eliot Hotel, sashimi bar Uni, pizza and salumi bar Coppa, taqueria La Verded, and the original Toro in Boston's South End—are still key players in the Boston scene, but the new branch of Toro recently opened in Chelsea is his first move in New York. Here's a look at how their paella, a large-format dish in several variations, is made.
The Spanish menu created by Mexican chef-consultant Ignacio Carballido (Cafe El Portal and Casa Mezcal) at Peix Bar de Mariscos is simple to the extreme—most dishes are nothing more than pristine seafood, a bit of olive oil, and some good technique—but compelling. It's easy to respect a chef who has the sense to let the ingredients do most of the work for him, letting their own creativity ride in the passenger seat.
In a case of rapid New York City restaurant turnover, the space that once was Aliseo Osteria Del Borgo, the Italian spot on Vanderbilt Avenue in Prospect Heights, is now La Mujer Gala, a tapas and small plates restaurant that leans more heavily on true, Spanish-style tapas than on the generic small (but typically expensive) plates offered all over town these days. Though a meal here has some pleasures, the menu needs some work.
The pintxos menu at Jarro XIV liberates you from any such dilemma. The dozen or so Mediterranean-inspired canapés (all $5 or less) are thoughtfully constructed, with great attention paid to the balance of savory, sweet, sour, and bitter flavors. They make for an actually affordable small plates menu, with good entrées to boot.
Barraca, a newcomer to the West Village and sister restaurant to taperías Rayuela and Mocando, boasts late-night Spanish tapas and sangria until 3 a.m. daily. Chef Jesús Nuñez, formerly of the modern Spanish restaurant Gastroarte, takes a traditional approach to the cuisine here, offering items popular on most tapas menus such as Patatas Bravioli, Croquetas, Pan con Tomate, and Gambas al Ajillo.
Despaña has one of the best selections of Spanish ingredients and prepared food in the city. Take our tour before you stock up on your next trip.
Whether Basque chef Luis Bollo is searching for fresh fish to dry and salt himself, or wants to sit down to tortilla espanola the way his grandmother used to make it, here are the places he goes for a taste of home.
El Mio Cid sits on the corner of Starr and Wilson in Bushwick, a cheerful yellow facade, bordered with plants, across from dollar stores and a bunker-like middle school. Just as this part of the neighborhood still belongs to Old Bushwick, El Mio Cid belongs to Old Spain.
Roast pork, roasted peppers, and melty cheese: there's a lot going on in this sandwich.
Sala One Nine sticks a well-cooked Spanish tortilla on a loaf of bread. It's mild—you could call it bland—but it makes for a satisfying, straightforward lunch.
Cobble Hill's La Vara has a whole fried section of the menu. The very first: these formidable fried artichokes, drizzled with anchovy aioli.
A tapas riddle to get things started: what's better than Tía Pol, less crowded than Casa Mono, and an overall delightful place to eat? Anyone? Such a brainteaser actually has an easy answer: the East Village's Nai.
Boqueria might only open at noon, but one taste of their cojonudo ($6)—roughly translated as "awesome" in Spanish—and you will have found breakfast heaven.
The fútbol and the playlist can work against romance, to be sure (and not taking plastic may irritate some), but the raucous atmosphere of tapas joints further downtown--Casa Mono, say, or Boqueria--is dialed back at the comparatively restrained Manolo, making it more conducive to courting. With its almost-there atmosphere and range of authentic, interesting dishes Manolo is best for: a getting-to-know-you date.
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.
In a season of highly anticipated openings, Seamus Mullen's Tertulia was up there with RedFarm as one of September's most talked-about. "[The] rich, deceptively sophisticated menu... does for tapas-style Spanish cuisine what Batali did for Italian pastas and April Bloomfield did for English pub food," wrote Adam Platt in New York Magazine last week. If you've been reading this early press, you'd believe it's the opening of the year. But that wasn't quite our experience.
As restaurant neighborhoods go, the East Village is the equivalent of a Honduran tilapia farm: packed to the gills and in danger of polluting the ecosystem (in this case, with middling restaurants). But Pata Negra, sandwiched into a narrow space on 12th Street between the takeout and proper restaurant locations of mac-and-cheese stalwart S'MAC, has proven itself as a sleeper in the tradition of Spain's best tapas bars, and the area is better for it. Wallets and waistlines, not so much.
A decade or so ago, the food world was abuzz about the boundary-pushing cuisine of Spanish chefs, led by Ferran Adrià at El Bulli—such that when the Spanish restaurant Meigas opened on Hudson Street with Luis Bollo as the chef, William Grimes at the New York Times declared, "Spanish foam has finally washed ashore on Manhattan Island... It was only a matter of time." Bollo's menu was one part inventive (a foamed lobster gazpacho) and one part traditional (baby squid in its own ink), and his suckling pig was so good that Ed still rhapsodizes about it. In short, the chef made an impression. Ten years later, how would his newest restaurant, Salinas, stack up?