PVD: Flan y Ajo
So I went recently, and have mixed impressions... This may end up a bit long.
To start with, I want to like this place and I want it to succeed – it fills a notable void in the PVD scene, it opens another business downtown, and the people running it are young, friendly, earnest and seem to love what they’re doing.
The space is small, with a bar that could probably seat no more than 8 comfortably, a sort of stand-up counter against the wall (more of a ledge than a counter, really) and one table on the sidewalk. The bar is uncomfortably high for the stools they have. Oddly there's a pinball machine in the front corner, which just seems like a hipsterish affectation that wastes space. Nobody played it while I was there. The selection of plates is small, probably about a dozen listed on a chalkboard. I had several cold plates, sampling from what appeared to be a good selection of high-quality cheeses, charcuterie and cold (pickled/vinegared) fish, one hot plate (more on that later) and no sweets or coffee.
The wine selection is “walk next door”, as they are BYOB-only, at least for now. This is not a major problem for the customer, since Eno is next door, but I’d think for a tapas place, you’re letting most of your profit margin escape. With the plates mostly being in the $4-6 range, there just isn’t much room to make money if you can’t also sell a $20-25 bottle of wine.
The larger problem, in my view, is that the way the space and the surrounding building are laid out, they can’t have a hood, which means no open flame, no griddle, no fryer. They have a convection oven and what appears to be an electric broiler, and that’s it. Limitations like that may have their place in, say, a competition on TV, but for a working restaurant they are really tough. Dishes have to be re-worked or re-imagined based on the equipment at hand. Baked/roasted/broiled croquetas, for instance, just don’t work for me. Grilled meats or fish are out, of course, anything normally fried has to be baked or broiled, you get the picture.
They also don't have a rest room. If you're going to sit for a while with friends, chatting and going through a bottle or two of wine, this is a real problem.
Although the location seems to me kind of dead for evening traffic, they say they’ve been very busy Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights (I believe they’re currently open Wed-Sat or Wed-Sun evenings.) I haven’t been there at lunchtime and don’t know what days they’re open for that or whether the menu is the same – tapas for lunch doesn’t appeal to me, but that seems like a location more conducive to lunchtime traffic. Incidentally, the space next door, on the corner of Eddy St. is being rebuilt as a Korean restaurant, probably opening very soon.
This may have ended up too negative. Go, try it, offer suggestions (they seem willing to listen.)