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Dec 23, 2007 07:05 PM

Pinched at Pintxo

My friend the educator, who went to high school in Barcelona, summed it up adroitly when she commented, "Our pintxos did not begin well at Bar Pintxo." We started with the "fresh tomato, serrano ham and grilled bread" for $3. A small cut of a baguette arrived about an inch and a half in diameter, topped with finely chopped tomato. The ham was no where to be found and we thought it somehow mixed in with the tomato. I cut it in two and as we bit into our respective halves we winced as our mouths encountered tomato chilled to the point of near iciness-neither fresh nor appetizing. Bizarre. Did it sit in the refrigerator overnight? Why would a restaurant of this caliber present such a dish? Was it because we were the first guests when they opened up at noon today? Certainly, there were enough staff in the open kitchen to prep fresh chopped tomato. Things didn't improve much.

Radish, jicama, avocado, cilantro and lime for $2 are literally two tooth picks with tiny morsels of the radish, avocado and jicama. I've seen drink garnishes bigger than these. A date wrapped in bacon with cabrales for $4 fares better with the marriage of sweet and pungent, and you can get two for $7.50.

The larger platos included the tortilla espanola for $6 and consisted of two quarters of a rather dried omelette with cubed potatoes accompanied by a somewhat stark garlic aioli that appears again with the croquetas de pollo y jamon for $5. Gambas al ajillo were two small to medium size shrimp, u21s perhaps, and had a nice char if underwhelming flavor for $6. A glass of a rather nice tempranillo for $8 and a small sparkling water for $2 rounded out the tab for $41. A small, lovely laid out room, which apparently has bustled since last Wednesday's opening and casual, friendly (if inconsistent) service were both assets.

Simplicity is every chef's greatest challenge and tapas may not be the ultimate vehicle to display the talent of a chef as accomplished as Joe Miller. And openings can be perilous. My friend pointed to The Oinskter's weak beginning and how it has evolved to great success. Let's hope this is the case here. In the meantime, the weekend sample tables of spicy sausage and Martha Stewart antibiotic ham at Costco later proved more satisfying; and, like many tapas in Spain, free.

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  1. They've been open for four days. How can there not be hiccups?

    The tapas and plate of ham we had today were very good, nearly on a par with our favorite spots in San Sebastian and Barcelona.

    As for the prices, I agree they are a bit high. But consider how much we pay for good sushi in LA. I can accept these prices for tapas of this quality.

    1. Went to PintXO last night and had a superb calamari that was sauteed, not fried, and as a non-calamari person, this dish was fabulous. Beware, you MUST like garlic as the sauce is laden with both it and parsley. Would go back just for this dish, and that is saying plenty. Also had the jamon which while good was a "modest" portion, and the $$ I think were $18, a rather expensive per bite ratio.
      Two good glasses of red wine, one from Mallorca made from 3 different grapes I had never heard of before.
      The hard chairs are a shock to sit in, yet we adjusted quite rapidly, and stayed about 45 minutes, which seemed to be about the maximum seat tolerance level.

      1. I agree, a huge disappointment for me. I had high hopes for Pintxo, esp. since it is only a few blocks away from my home. Frustration over the selection and prices was exacerbated by the fact that the chef has never been to Spain and apparently knows nothing of the culture of tapas--staff and management know little about finos from Jerez (a staple at any Spanish tapas bar), and the staff not much more helpful on the wine list.

        Also, offering 2 shrimp--on the side of the menu that is labeled "Platos"--seems rather ridiculous. One would think that for $6, and placing the item on the other side of the menu with the larger portions that you would be getting something more.

        Hopefully, they will re-think some of the menu, do a bit more homework, and make some changes.

        Just not comparable to any tapas place in Spain.