Restaurant Watch: Tapas, Anyone?

Color me scrumptious!

Color me scrumptious!

Running a business in NYC involves tons of fine restaurant dining (no complaints here). But once in a while, I have the chance to dine out just for the joy of eating. Recently, Michael and a dear friend from the west coast joined me at El Quinto Pino on West 24th Street for an evening of Spanish tapa indulgence and some catching up. It was our first visit to this secret Chelsea gem, where the food’s flavors and presentation were so impressive that the smart phone cameras began clicking all by themselves. Here is what they documented.

The Warm-Up   

Garbonzos Fritos & Pimientos: Tapas 101.

Garbonzos Fritos & Pimientos: Tapas 101.

The proper tapas experience ought to begin with the classic Garbonzos Fritos (crispy chickpeas), which, when prepared as perfectly as El Quinto Pino’s, offers a mild, savory simplicity that not only calibrates the palate for what’s to come, but makes a great pairing with Cava Rosado— the preferred starter wine. These garbonzos arrived at the table alongside Pimientos (blistered peppers with sea salt), which are an absolute pleasure to devour, contrasting delicate texture with big flavor, while the salt adds that extra tease, activating the salavaries.

Picos y Taquitos (Chorizo Sausage, marinated Manchego cheese, house-made Menorcan spreadable sausage, EVO breadsticks) sounded like an obvious next course for the adventurous eaters we are. We went for it, and it was so well-executed and irresistible that I think we ordered another.

A Spud-Lover's Paradise.

A Spud-Lover’s Paradise.

Feeling Adventurous

Their Nuestras Bravas (rough-cut potatoes in spicy aioli) is further proof that the spud is a noble vegetable. The presentation alone gives an indication of how the dense, creamy preparation accentuates the underlying rusticity. We ordered it simultaneously with El Quinto Pino’s sinful Torreznos (Bag of Bacon: Castillian pork cracklins) because the contrast just made sense. By this time, we were drinking beautiful Garnacha, and were starting to feel the euphoria of a meal coming together brilliantly.

Bag of Bacon

Get Cracklin’!

Dialing It Up!

Now, it was time to get serious, and a Salmorejo Cordobez (Gazpacho’s thicker cousin, with chopped egg and Serrano ham) was in order. It clued us in that not only was the chef talented, but that we all need to get back to Spain and reacquaint with the culture. The Garbonzos El Rinconcillo (Sevillan chick pea & spinach stew) completed this one-two punch final round of immersion into the hedonistic side of tapas, and set in stone our pledge to revisit El Quinto Pino.

Gazpacho's Thicker Cousin

Gazpacho’s Thicker Cousin.

If you find yourself tempted to duplicate our experience, don’t hesitate. Everything we ordered was priced between the six and nine-dollar mark, and we only scratched the surface of their terrific menu. The Spanish wine list is smart and diverse, the staff is informed and energetic, the atmosphere is trendy and cozy, and the patrons are hip— mostly in their 20s and 30s. The space is small, so large handbags and heavy coats might be tricky. Email your reservations to Comer Bien!

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