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Somebody settle the tapas debate

  • b
  • Bill May 1, 2005 01:03 AM

I am visiting NY and would like to eat at the restaraunt that serves the best tapas. Every time I think I've read the definitive word, the place I've settled upon gets bashed for poor food, over-pricing, or lousy service. I want to stay south of downtown if I can. Alta, El Cid, Tia Pol, Casa Mono... Somebody whose made the rounds, please tell me where to go!!

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  1. Let's face it, it's finger food! Expensive finger food! Debate settled. :)

    4 Replies
    1. re: Jake

      Agreed. Tapas are the biggest ripoff on the planet--low quality high prices. Try some real food at maybe Seville.

      1. re: Jim

        The tapas meal doesn't make sense here any more than the wine bar does.

        But they're both wildly popular.

        The very idea of tapas is CHEAP savory dishes to be enjoyed with a glass of wine or beer.

        A wine bar in Europe serves small pours of inexpensive wines, typically local varieties, sometimes to be enjoyed with a light snack.

        A glass of wine and a tapa-type dish in Italy or Spain usually costs me under 6 Euro ($8?).

        I can't get out of, say, Tia Pol for under $20.
        NEVER.
        And that's when I can get in!

        To answer the original poster's question, I Like La Nacional.

      2. re: Jake

        Tapas may be 'expensive finger food' in your opinion but that's because that's how tapas evolved in the States from their original humble beginnings in Spain. One could also say that dim sum is expensive finger/chopstick food but people love dim sum anyway.

        To get back on track to the OP's query, I really like the tapas at El Cid. It's not the trendiest of places but it is authentic for Manhattan and everything I've had is delicious. The grilled sardines are excellent.

        1. re: Flynn

          Except that dim sum is decidedly inexpensive, except at Chinatown Brasserie. You can pig out at Harmony Palace for $13.

      3. Tia Pol or Casa Mono.

        1. I had a good and pleasant dinner at Alta last week. It's not really a tapas place, although their menu goes that way. Tia Pol is better foodwise (but not by that much), and if you hate crowds, go to Alta.

          1. Not too many places south of downtown - save for Staten Island! ;)

            1 Reply
            1. re: Lambretta76

              Sorry. I meant south of midtown.

            2. The four of us went to Alta about a month ago when we came to NYC. The cheque including a generous tip and tax came to 60 a person. The girls had three glasses of wine each and the guys three beer. The food was absolutely great and we had a lot of it. I loved the silver skin angovies served on boiled egg and guacamole. it reminded me of Barcelona. The dishes are designed to share so an 8 dollar dish becomes a 2 dollar per person snack. you pay a lot more for chicken wings these days. I am back in town in July and I am definitely eating at Alta again. Cheers, eurojac from The Hague

              1. Every time I take someone to Pintxos, they love it. Spring and Greenwich, it's Basque-style ("pintxos" is Basque for tapas.) Particularly good are the chorizo - great texture, pleasantly spicy; octopus -- melts in your mouth, not rubbery; gamba a la plancha; prawns with an incredibly flavorful piquant sauce. Comes on a plate of three but they will make it four if you ask. Also order off the menu for a cylindrical sausage that they serve sometimes; also very good. They have decent tortillas and papas (not everyone I've taken likes them). I also like a dry white Basque wine they have called Txacoli.

                It does get a little bit expensive (~$30-35/person including wine), as some people complain, but I don't really see the point of complaining about the mode of tapas. I actually prefer tapas-style dining to regular American-style dining; you get a better variety of tastes and you don't get overwhelmed by a big portion (which I guess is a personal issue.) I've been to Sevilla and had tapas, and they're not so super-tasty over there as to put us to shame, unlike other cuisines. Pintxos is as good as it gets, IMHO.

                3 Replies
                1. re: JackS

                  Second Pinxtos. My wife loves tapas, and this is both of our favorite place because the food is excellent.

                  1. re: Captain

                    Went to Pintxos yesterday evening as part of a group and have to say that I was (and we were) underwhelmed by the food, the limited and average quality wine list and the haphazard service. None of the food was downright bad but nor was any of it in any way standout.

                    And more importantly this place isn't even remotely Basque. I've eaten in the Basque country and we're talking chalk and cheese.

                    Disappointing, I wanted to like this place.

                  2. re: JackS

                    However, the "pintxos" available in San Sebastian, Bilbao and elsewhere in the Basque country are super tasty and do put us to shame somewhat. This is the best culinary region of Spain no question as far as I'm concerned and that's saying something. I've rarely if ever been impressed by Andalucian tapas offerings, too much fried and deep fried stuff going on.

                    I keep meaning to try Pintxos for supper as it regularly gets positive write ups. I did go there once but kitchen had closed so I had to make do with a "patxaran" digestivo and some cheese and membrillo. We got chatting to the staff and turns out that the chef isn't from the Basque country but I still want to go eat there.

                  3. i know i'm not supposed to do this, but my favorite tapas place is in williamsburg, brooklyn -- zipe zape.
                    its small; feels authentic; has great, simple tapas; and is cheaper than anything in the city. plus, great sangria and a killer happy hour... just my two cents!
                    m

                    1. I really love Paella in the east village...great setting, delicious food. Oh, FYI-you're dreaming if you think that you will get any kind of debate settled on Chowhound : )

                      1. NY hasn't done justice to tapas. Casa Mono, Alta, Solera, Tia Pol, Azafran etc are all amongst the better places in the city. However, if you factor the price in, none of these places qualify as a "tapas" place. I've enjoyed my meals at Casa mono but always left with a bitter taste after paying for the food & wine.
                        In my opinion, Tia Pol is the most authentic & the price isn't as ridiculous as Casa Mono.
                        I also really like ñ in Soho. Tiny lil spot, great tapas, reasonable prices.

                        1. I think that Pipa is amazing. I went there and the atmosphere and food was amazing. For two, we got a salad, 3 tapas plates, a huge pitcher of Sangria and desert and it was only like $100 -- which I find cheap for NY. The person I went with is inlove w/Spain and hard to please... and said it reminded her of authentic Spanish Tapas. Check it out.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: desertruger

                            I like Pipa as well but prefer to go there with a big group, the atmosphere lends itself easily for parties and most of the servings are big enough for a few people to share if you get a variety of items.

                            For something with a more authentic feel I like Tia Pol, but have recently also discovered Boqueria and considering I'm never asked to wait 2 hours for the latter that's my new tapas spot for that area. Sala, 2 doors down from Boqueria is also a decent substitute if it's too packed for you (but I've never had a problem for 2 people getting in).

                            Another one I love is Bar Carerra on 12th & 2nd I think. I think all tapas are $3.50 and while they are pretty small servings, it's rich. It's very much a bar set-up so don't go w/ expectations of sitting at a table and it has a tendency to get packed, so we try to go on week nights. It's definitely not a place for everyone though and I'd never go there with more than 2 people.

                          2. Euzkadi on East 4th between 1st/2nd. One of the few times that I've had tapas and actually left both full and with some cash left in my wallet. And it's delicious!

                            1. I can't believe that no one has mentioned Las Ramblas (West Village) or Bocqueria (Chelsea/Union Sq) yet. Both really really good. Both friendly and festive. Great wines, and you walk into to both to a wall of garlicky aromas. What's better than that?

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: ballulah

                                Second Boqueria for authentic, Casa Mono for Barcelona style and las Ramblas or Euzkadi for good and cheap. Also I have to get back to La Nacional for Madrileno style tapas and paella. also make your own from Despana/ Sala is not bad either.

                                1. re: guttergourmet

                                  Despana seems to go from strength to strength and has been a very welcome addition to the NY grocery store scene. Was there last Tuesday (mid storm) with the intention of stocking up on aceitunas con anchoas and guindillas and came away with plenty more besides. Main assistant recommended me a range of seafood pates which they had recently started stocking and I came away with sea urchin and white tuna varietals which are definitely worth trying. They also offer more ready made items than before and their so called "pintxos" are pretty damned tasty if you fancy something quick and casual en route somewhere. They also sell a goat milks cheese from Catalunya called Nevat ("snow") which is delicious and has been known to appear on the cheese plate served at Degustation. I also came away with 2 bars of Swiss chocolate including a delicious white chocolate with rhubarb and aloe vera. Who knew!

                              2. I havent been to many tapas places in the city but I can tell you I love Alta. The atmosphere is great for a date or relaxing meal. They do not rush you through your meal and have a great selection of wines under $40. The food is very creative and delicious however it is not traditional spanish tapas. I have been to San Sebatian and have not seen a place that serves Pinxos like over there but if you are looking for a good "small dish" place, I recommend Alta,

                                1. Boqueria, Casa Mono and Tia Pol in that order. There is a new one opening on lower 7th ave (at Christopher) from the people at la Nacional that promises to be good (Ostia I think). I've not been to Tasca yet (across the street) but know that the chef was at Suba before going there.

                                  1. Bar carrera is also great-even the "fake" baby eels

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: guttergourmet

                                      what are the fake baby eels? If they're not eels, what are they? I once had actual baby eels as an appetizer at the restaurant that used to be where Hearth now is (forget its name)--and although the waiter recommended them (a special), he neglected to tell us that a tiny little dish of them cost $30! And they weren't even good--they were overwhelmed by a burnt garlic taste.

                                      1. re: equilibrist

                                        The name of the place was Tappo.

                                        1. re: equilibrist

                                          angulitos-surimi -100grams= $4.00
                                          angulas-real eels-100 grams=$170.00
                                          surimi-fish puree-artificial crab legs you often get in cheap sushi
                                          Having said that the angulitos on toast for $5.00 at Carrera aren't bad for a cheap eel fix.

                                          1. re: guttergourmet

                                            Wow, no wonder the app was so much at Tappo. If the baby eels are so rare and expensive, are there any ethical issues involved in eating them (overharvesting? reducing the adult eel population?), I wonder.

                                      2. Tapas is WONDERFUL. It keeps you from eating like a pig, and lets you sample so many things! Tapas was the best thing ever created!! Long live Tapas.

                                        Casa Mono's good...but seriously? Aspen man... its the best!! I mean, it's looked at more for being "trendy" but I swear, the food is AMAZING.

                                        1. I went to Tasca last night for the first time. Some of the food was delicious--especially the chorizo with figs, a must-have--and some was plain boring, like a tuna crudo with fennel and (supposedly) blood oranges. It definitely needed more acidity, some kind of zesty kick. The blood oranges might have helped, but we couldn't find any. The churros for dessert with dulce de leche and chocolate dipping sauces were also a high point, and I'm not normally a big dessert eater.

                                          Guttergourmet above said that Boqueria is authentic and Casa Mono is Barcelona-style. Wondering about the distinction there....wouldn't Barcelona style be the most authentic, and isn't Boqueria based on a Barcelonan ideal?

                                          Also--anyone heard about a new place (hasn't opened yet, I think) called Mercat (Catalan for market), yet another contender in the Manhattan tapas smackdown?