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best small plates

trishottawa Mar 23, 2007 09:07 AM

Looking for a restaurant that focuses on small plates. Doesn't need to be authentic tapas.
Neighbourhood and price don't matter. Great ambience and reservations a must.

  1. LFeinberg Mar 23, 2007 09:11 AM

    The Stanton Social rocks

    3 Replies
    1. re: LFeinberg
      BRI328 Mar 23, 2007 11:41 AM

      I agree 100%!

      1. re: BRI328
        kobetobiko Mar 28, 2007 08:44 AM

        LFeinberg is not going to like my response (again!) as I do not like Stanton Social at all. While the decor is nice and is probably fun if you enjoy young hippie types of restaurants, food is mediocre and service was spotty. I have been to their more than once for dinner (friends reserved the place) and were never happy with the service. Dinners (yes LFeinberg, I hear you about brunch) are filled with loud noise with people running around the restaurant. It may not be the case for brunch which I have heard some good reviews from fellow hounds, but dinners to me were not that pleasant.

        I understand that this type of restaurants has its appeal to some people, and if you think this type of ambiance is enjoyable then SS may be for you. Personally I focus much more on the food, and SS does not live up to my expectation in this aspect.

        Other suggestions sound great, and my favorite is definitely Degustation (more of a french inspired tapas). Food is exceptional, but even with reservation you may still need to wait (which in my case is 30 mins...) Boqueria and Tia Pol are both great for Spanish tapas, and the suckling pig in Tia Pol is one of my favorite pig dishes in NYC (EMP's one is the best pick). Alta is cheaper but the food is solid, not the "I want to go back for that" type (if you know what I mean), but it is good when you have a craving for tapas and in the neighborhood.

        Urena (based on RGR's recommendation) is a great option. I haven't been to Urena myself, but you can search the board on reviews from others.

        For the ultimate small plates, L'Atelier de Joel Robouchon is the place. I will pretty much recommend all the dishes there, especially the ones with foie gras. The desserts are to die-for. My mom and I sometimes just go there for their desserts in the afternoon because they are so great! Of course expect to pay premium, as portion sizes are small and expensive for its portion.

        Lastly, just to give you a more exotic option, go to Aburiya Kinnosuke for Japanese small plates. It is a Japanes izakaya and is very authentic and delicious. You will see a lot of Japanese there and it is a fun environment!

        Hope you enjoy your tapa experience!

        1. re: kobetobiko
          RGR Mar 28, 2007 11:53 AM

          Re: Urena. We haven't tried any of the tapas there, but it is a sizable part of the menu. We've been bowled over by the food Alex is serving and will certainly sample the tapas at some point. If you wish to order only tapas, you can do at a table in the dining area or at the capacious bar up front.


    2. m
      moymoy Mar 23, 2007 10:59 AM

      Casa Mono (17th & Irving)...nice wine bar, loved the razor clams & reservations a must.

      7 Replies
      1. re: moymoy
        trishottawa Mar 23, 2007 11:38 AM

        what's Bolo like?

        1. re: trishottawa
          moymoy Mar 23, 2007 12:14 PM

          Not sure, never been to Bolo. sorry...

          1. re: moymoy
            jsmitty Mar 28, 2007 09:26 AM

            does he still serve the squid ink risotto? yum

          2. re: trishottawa
            jno Mar 23, 2007 01:53 PM

            Bolo has spanish influenced small and big dishes. nice if you like those flavors, but wasn't necessarily blown away by all the plates.

            I recommend degustation. i believe they organize their plates by price range...but really delicious flavors. very nice date place. be forewarned the space is tiny and get good directions, b/c it was hard to find (i thought).

            1. re: jno
              snaporaz Mar 23, 2007 05:19 PM

              Had an anniversary dinner at Degustation and it's great, but it's a japanese style open-kitchen and bar, so it really only works for two people, maybe three if you get a corner. But the food is remarkable. And the markups seemed very reasonable.
              For a slightly larger group I would go to Tia Pol, but it gets very crowded in that tiny space.

              1. re: snaporaz
                jsmitty Mar 28, 2007 09:27 AM

                major 2nd to degustation! wow. roast beef sandwich is delish among others.. let the chef serve you and trust him.. the best way to eat..

            2. re: trishottawa
              RGR Mar 28, 2007 11:42 AM

              While the tapas I've had at Bolo were quite tasty, the selection is very limited, and portions are teensy. No way can you share them like you can the small plates at other places, like Casa Mono. They are more like "amuses" before the rest of the meal. Those are full portion size and are more than adequate.

          3. h
            hungry_fox Mar 23, 2007 04:11 PM

            You want small plates but it doesn't need to be authentic tapas. Small plates often are tapas, might as well get good tapas.

            Tia Pol is by far an amazing restaurant with wonderful tapas. The food is excellent, the wine is wonderful, and it atmosphere is awesome. For further back up search for it on here, tons of people have given it good reports. They do take reservations but only for groups of 6-8. If you don't have reservations and you go for dinner you may have to wait a bit but it's extremely worth it. If you're going for lunch you don't need a reservation, they tend to be empty during that time for some reason.

            8 Replies
            1. re: hungry_fox
              trishottawa Mar 28, 2007 08:27 AM

              I have a reservation at Casa Mono but the best I could get was 6:30 which is very early for me. Is it worth keeping it or just go to Bolo. Anyone been to Alta?

              1. re: trishottawa
                Lucia Mar 28, 2007 09:23 AM

                I've only been to Bolo once during Restaurant Week, but I was not a fan at all. Casa Mono is much better. Other hounds have been to Alta--you should be able to find old opinions using the search function.

                1. re: Lucia
                  LFeinberg Mar 28, 2007 09:25 AM


                  1. re: LFeinberg
                    jsmitty Mar 28, 2007 09:28 AM

                    i just did an alta mini review.. check it out...

                2. re: trishottawa
                  RGR Mar 28, 2007 11:46 AM

                  See my comment above in answer to your previous post re: Bolo. In short, you cannot make a meal of the tapas at Bolo.

                  1. re: RGR
                    trishottawa Mar 28, 2007 11:57 AM

                    Thanks for the heads up.I'll take Bolo off my list.
                    Any idea of wait times at Casa Mono or Boqueria for 2 on a Thurs. night around 7:30?

                    1. re: trishottawa
                      RGR Mar 28, 2007 01:56 PM

                      I haven't been to Boqueria.

                      As far as I know, Casa Mono takes reservations. We've only gone off-hours, i.e., early dinner around 5 with a reservation, late lunch after 2 without, and had no difficulty getting a table. Casa Mono is a pretty small place with less than a dozen tables which are really, really squeezed together. The first time we went, there were three of us, and the hostess tried to give us a table that could just barely fit two! I immediately made it clear that wasn't acceptable, so they put two tables for two together. And at lunch, when it was just my husband and me, there was about an inch of space between our table and the one next to us. There is also bar seating. At least a half dozen seats. I wouldn't sit there because the seats have no backs, but that's just me. (Seats without backs are also the reason I've hesitated about going to Tia Pol.)

                      I don't mean to deter you from going to Casa Mono. I really like the food and, though I would prefer that spacing was more comfortable, I would not hesitate to go there again. So, if you can manage to get a table, I think you will enjoy it.

                      1. re: trishottawa
                        moymoy Mar 29, 2007 12:02 PM

                        7:30 on Thurs...I would say expect to wait at least 1 hour, unless you get lucky. I was there around 7pm back in June and had an hour wait time and then only got 2 seats at the bar.

                3. LFeinberg Mar 28, 2007 12:11 PM

                  Perbacco, in the East Village, is great!

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: LFeinberg
                    KTinNYC Mar 28, 2007 12:47 PM

                    Since when did Perbacco become a small plates restaurant?

                    Also, I don't think they take reservations, unless that has changed also. Has it?

                    1. re: KTinNYC
                      LFeinberg Mar 28, 2007 12:52 PM

                      It's always been a small plates restaurant. They have entrees, as well, but a great selection of Italian "tapas."

                      1. re: LFeinberg
                        kayonyc Apr 2, 2007 09:24 AM

                        Definitely second Perbacco! They have great small plates. Their no-reservations policy isn't generally a problem if you arrive by 7:30.

                  2. oonth Mar 28, 2007 02:42 PM

                    I've read through the posts and have tried most of the places mentioned. Of these Degustation would comfortably get my vote, it's doing something on a higher plane to the other places in my opinion.

                    Another place that very much deserves a mention is The Monday Room which is the wine bar/lounge that forms part of Public on Elizabeth Street. They are serving delicious and creative pan-Asian small plates and there is a very solid accompanying wine list. I don't think that the setting and decor is as conducive as it could be but it's not bad at the same time.

                    1. ronoc Mar 28, 2007 02:52 PM

                      Yakitori Totto! For all the parts of the chicken you've never even thought about. Soft knee bone or gizzard anyone? Seriously though, it's really good. And you can order about 5 things each. On W 55th St.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: ronoc
                        hungry_fox Mar 28, 2007 05:28 PM

                        Awwww if you're gonna suggest Yakitori you have to suggest Yakitori Taisho, I've been to Totto and in my opinion Taisho is still the best Yakitori in NYC.

                      2. d
                        downtownstefanie Mar 28, 2007 03:35 PM

                        I like Azafran for Spanish & 'inoteca for Italian. Though I'm not sure that the latter does reservations.

                        11 Replies
                        1. re: downtownstefanie
                          trishottawa Mar 29, 2007 04:49 PM

                          We are 2 women in our late 40's and I think we might look out of place at Stanton Social...although I love the look of their menu.
                          Have a 6:30 reservation at Casa Mono but it's just too early. How crazy am I cancel it and go to Alta instead which can take us at a better time? Our other choice is A Voce, even though it's not small plates.

                          1. re: trishottawa
                            RGR Mar 29, 2007 05:14 PM

                            When it comes to places like Stanton Social, I think it's a question not of whether you will look out of place but, rather, how *you* will feel. If you think you and your friend will be comfortable there regardless of the age group surrounding you -- and you can get a reservations at an agreeable time -- I think you should consider going there. Btw, my daughter and her friends were there last year, and they are in their mid-30's, which means the clientele is not just 20-somethings.

                            As regards Casa Mono vs. Alta. I've never been to Alta, but from what I've heard and read, it's a very nice, cozy place, and the tapas are very good. So, if the 6:30 res at Casa Mono doesn't work for you, cancel and go to Alta -- that is, of course, if you've completely abandoned the idea of going to Stanton Social.

                            1. re: RGR
                              LFeinberg Mar 29, 2007 05:17 PM

                              Great post, RGR!

                              1. re: LFeinberg
                                RGR Mar 29, 2007 05:21 PM

                                Thanks for the kind words, LFeinberg!

                            2. re: trishottawa
                              kobetobiko Mar 29, 2007 08:24 PM

                              As for Casa Mono and Alta, I personally think that Tia Pol and Boqueria are more similar to Casa Mono than Alta and will be great replacement (actually I prefer both to Casa Mono...) However, they do not take reservations.

                              I think Alta 's food is more "straightforward", while Casa Mono/ Tia Pol / Boqueria serves tapas with more complex flavors with a lot of ingredients incoporated in a single dish. Alta is a great choice to enjoy the "simplicity", not to mention that the price is cheap. But it may be not quite the same as what you will get in Casa Mono and alike.

                              1. re: kobetobiko
                                RGR Mar 29, 2007 09:17 PM

                                I have not been to Spain (yet), nor have I been to Tia Pol (yet). But I've gotten the distinct impression from things I've read that the tapas at Casa Mono is considered Batali's "take" on Spanish tapas, while Tia Pol's is more authentic

                                1. re: RGR
                                  kobetobiko Mar 29, 2007 09:53 PM

                                  I guess that is a fair assessment. After all, Batali's strenght is in Italian (not to say he is not good in Spanish...). In terms of authenticity, I really can't make any judgement as I have limited knowledge in Spanish cuisine as a whole and have never been to Spain either. I only did my comparison based on taste and not authenticity.

                                  1. re: kobetobiko
                                    RGR Mar 30, 2007 06:43 AM

                                    I remember reading that before opening Casa Mono, Batali spent some time in Spain checking out the tapas there. He then used that experience not so much to duplicate it, but as a jumping off point when putting his menu together. Even if it isn't completely authentic, I agree that it's very tasty stuff.

                                    1. re: RGR
                                      trishottawa Mar 30, 2007 06:56 AM

                                      Not too worried about authenticity because I'm lucky enough to have been to Spain and Italy. I like a creative chef's interpretation of authentic.Thanks for all the advice....will now choose between Alta and Stanton Social.We have a Fri.reservation for Babbo so I'll still get my Mario moment!

                                      1. re: trishottawa
                                        kobetobiko Mar 30, 2007 07:03 AM

                                        Excellent! Sound like an exciting plan! Hope you enjoy your meal at Babbo! Let us know what you think once you come back!

                                        1. re: trishottawa
                                          RGR Mar 30, 2007 07:17 AM

                                          Glad we could help you decide. Have a great time, and please report back.

                            3. seal Apr 2, 2007 09:36 AM

                              Just went to L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon this weekend and can say without hesitation that if you want small plates and price is no object, then this is a fine choice.

                              The egg with the mushroom foam is amazing, as are the beef and foie sliders, and the scallops. For a slightly larger plate, the quail was extroadinary.

                              We almost went whole hog and had the tasting menu, but we were still rubbing our bellies from the huge brunch at Norma's.

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