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Tapas Recap

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Because I am a lover of Tapas, I edited the whole recent thread on Tapas (minus the !!!'s) down to this digest:

El Cid - I'll second the recommendation of El Cid. . They have fantastic Spanish wines (try the Marques de Riscal, Rioja 1995) And definitely try the sweetbreads... my choice for great Tapas in NYC. Did anyone ever have the angulas?…I've had eel in many incarnations but not here. Also, their ajillo sauce is superb…. a wonderful bartender and I just adore the garlicky potato salad… (15th street between 8th and 9th). Awesome tortilla and shrimp of all kinds. Owner is named Yolanda, very nice…but gets crowded. one of my favorite restaurants in nyc.

N - I always liked n (enya) on Crosby but haven't been in years…. that place is even smaller and it's really
more of a bar these days.

Solera - is wonderful but is an upscale Spanish restaurant, not a lively tapas bar.

Tapastry - I've enjoyed Tapastry but the caveats that others have pointed out certainly apply….; it's an "American Tapas" restaurant -- small plates -- but no Spanish food. Picture a downtown version of Hi Life. Definitely not worth your time or money.

Xunta on 1st Ave. may be precisely what you're looking for: based on the sound level in the room, it is truly a Tapas Restaurant!!(It's also very good; it's the tapas bar recommended in Jim's book.) … On a good night, Xunta is just like being in Spain. But there haven't been many good nights in a long, long time. Last time I was there, they'd sprinkled my pulpo (octopus) with CORN oil (!!!), and it was tough and cold. I've also had very very serious pulpo Gallego there....but, again, not in quite a while….But they've still got a socko selection of alarinos, the young white wines that are the Galician versions of Portuguese vinho verde. Ask to drink 'em out of "tazon", or ceramic bowls. Cool.

Sala - One place to avoid is Sala, a new place on the Bowery. The decor is Hyatt-Hotel-does-Spain, the prices are inflated, the food precious and fussy, and the portions tiny. And my waiter didn't know what manzanilla was. (Not a failing in any normal human being, mind you, just in a server in a tapas bar.)

Miegas - Not long ago I tried a new place on Hudson called Miegas (sp?). The food was nice and the atmosphere at the tapas bar was excellent

Rio Mar, which greatly resembles (lousy wine and thick cigarette smoke included) the basic tapas bars in the working-class districts of Madrid. Spicy chorizo, octopus sizzling in olive oil, teeth-stripping rioja: they've got it all.

There's another place on Bedford at 7th Ave that always has people in it. it's also a little larger so you might have an easier shot of sitting down quickly. unfortunately i cannot remember the name or vouch for the food. But they've been in there for a while now even with a location that's less thanprimo, so it might be worth a shot.

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  1. You really must stress making a reservation for El Cid. I cannot ever think about getting a table or even a seat at the bar for more than 2 persons on a weekend.
    It is essential to make a reservation here!
    The anguillas are sublime, just close your eyes and try not to think what they look like.
    The Sangria, sublime, the dessert wine, pushes me over the edge.
    I go ga ga over the chicken in garlic sauce.
    The flan is awesome.
    Have I said enough?

    7 Replies
    1. re: Mr. W.

      Reading the Tapas!!! thread got me in the mood for a return visit to El Cid, so I got to eat there last night for my b-day. Ditto the advice about reserving: this was a weeknight, and by 9 the place was overflowing. From our table comfortably away from the fray, the crowds made for a happy scene, but no doubt the unseated had a less jolly perspective.

      We enjoyed a tapas-board special of chicken in a red wine sauce -- yum! The usual Iberian suspects were also fine, especially the grilled sardines.

      But one thing: what's the deal with the $48 tapas plate of anguilas? OK, so they're sublime -- why do they cost so much? Somebody please explain it to me.

      And Vexing, can I go with you the next time you order them? (No way will my honey be up for that kind of experiment, either in the eating or in the paying.) I just want a little taste, just a few bucks worth! (I'll accept a detailed description as a substitute.)

      1. re: Helen

        Anguillas tend to be just as--or more!--expensive in Spain, and there is a whole set of rituals built up around eating them. Complaining about their cost is like complaining about the cost of caviar. You may be justified, but when you start looking for bargains, the quality goes way down.

        1. re: j gold

          So Jonathan, who's looking for a bargain? I'm just saying, it's a big plunge to take just out of curiousity, or on faith.

          It's interesting you made the analogy with caviar, I was thinking along those lines when I saw the price last night. And I think that as with caviar, it's not so easy to explain why a person should plunk down so many bucks for such a weird-sounding thing. (You want me to shell out HOW MUCH for FISH EGGS??? And they're BLACK????) But having enjoyed good caviar, I'm willing to give anguillas the benefit of the doubt (especially if someone else is buying!)

          Another thing -- if I'm not hip to the rituals, will the eels taste just as good?

          1. re: j gold

            What exactly are the rituals, anyway?

          2. re: Helen

            Hi- I was at El Cid last night (Friday) and checked on the spelling, at least on their board, and its angulas. I was the one who brought up this topic anyway but I have to confess that I still didn't order them. Can you describe how they are prepared and how big they are etc.?I had the usual wonderful time eating their sensational ajillo sauce and tortilla and watching their excellent bartender at work. I wasn't there for dinner so I did't have very many dishes but each one I did have was exquisite and I'm vowing to have the eels next time.

            1. re: Helen

              This month's Saveur (which mostly sucked) had an article on baby eels, which explained that they are already three years old and have migrated all way across the Atlantic when they are caught by Spanish fishermen, and that they've been pretty heavily overfished. According to the article, they're currently selling in Spain for $60 - $70 a serving.

              1. re: MU

                MU, thanks for the tip on the article, I'll look for it in the library. I wonder if the eels served here are imported from Europe, or what?

                Like another poster (sorry, I'm afraid to click to find your name lest I lose what I've written so far,) I too was wondering about the spelling. I remember that the board did say "angulas", but my Spanish dictionary says "anguilas" (one "l".) I think it might have been spelled that way on the printed menu, too.

                Could be that someone in the restaurant isn't a great speller, or that there are variants, depending on the type of eel. (Think of how many different translations you've seen for "eel" in Japanese restaurants. Seems like they have as many variations as the Eskimos do for snow.) Or, maybe I need a better dictionary.