Please note that the meal was complimentary. However, the opinions expressed in my blog are 100% my own!
Nai Tapas Bar is the kind of gem people would keep to themselves, the cozy atmosphere and phenomenal food making this place unique in a restaurant scene that is quickly evolving. This place is the result of the collaboration of Chef Ruben Rodriguez and General Manager/Wine director David Martinez, who offer, in this East Village joint a tapas menu that is phenomenal. Chef Rodriguez first started serving dishes inspired from his grandmother, Emilia Arias, and his mother (Nai), Ana Maria Gonzalez Arias, who is also a Chef. He then started to expand, based on his own research, traveling around the world and working with various Chefs to discover new flavors. The dinner I had there was amazing and, from the first dish, that was made with molecular gastronomy techniques, to the desserts, I was flabbergasted by the originality, creativity and flavors, elements that, as we discussed with my fellow bloggers who were present at the table (The Restaurant Fairy, Bon Viveur NYC, The Cake Dealer and Johnny Prime), would easily be found in more fancier places like Eleven Madison Park. Well, I would not be surprised if one day we hear that Nai Tapas Bar be rewarded by stars from Michelin...
The decor is warm and rustic, from the wooden bar and tables, the exposed brick, where few sculptures are embedded in, as well as paintings from the Chef's cousin, giving the impression you could step into another world, there, somewhere in Spain.
As far as the food and drinks are concerned, see for yourself the incredible feast we got:
I started of with their sangria, a nice healthy serving of fruit that can be deadly as you would drink it like milk...
Esferication de Aceituna (olive spherification): an introduction to molecular gastronomy, where this little green ball exploded in my mouth, bursting in olive flavor.
A beer from Upstate NY that I completely forgot the name...Anyway, know that they have a nice selection of draught beers from Spain, but, if you prefer local, they can accommodate too.
Jamon Iberico or sliced Iberico ham with olives:
Mini-airbags rellenas de queso manchego or mini-airbags stuffed with manchego foam:
Then, Wine Director and co-owner David Martinez brought a cava with lemon rinds and mint leaves. He gave a vigorous twirl to the carafe to remove the gas, resulting in a refreshing drink that paired perfectly with the next dish.
The dish was Ostras con aire de Limon or oysters with a lemon foam:
Another pairing was Albarino de Rias Baixas Valdemonxes, a crisp red perfect with pork or seafood.
And it was not with meat that it was paired, but with fish: tostada de lubina or Chilean seabass wrapped in toast topped over an orange emulsion and balsamic reduction):
Gambas al ajillo or traditional shrimp in garlic sauce (simply made, I was glad the Chef tried to keep it similar to what you would eat in Spain):
Aguacate relleno or avocado stuffed with crab meat and sprinkled with Serrano ham:
We then got a palate cleanser that was a sangria infused watermelon (Sandia impregnada con sangria):
The next wine was also red: Altos de Luzon, also from Spain:
At that point I got to try Cabrales potatoes that are pan fried potatoes with blue cheese, a very addictive dish:
Croquetas de jamon or ham croquettes, a fairly traditional dish:
Pollo Ahumado or smoked chicken cooked sous-vide, a dish with Asian flavors and a stunning presentation:
Coles de Brusselas or Brussels Sprouts in a spicy mustard aioli topped with fresh apples in an orange emulsion:
Barriga de Cerdo or pork belly with caramelized pecans and yuca chips over a cream of carrot):
The next wine was a Montevannos Crianza Ribera Del Duero 2008, a vibrant and aromatic red made with tempranillo grapes:
Salmorejo Canario or marinated baby back ribs with cabrales potatoes and fried peppers:
Pintxo de Chistorra or spicy Basque chorizo over piquillo peppers on toast, topped with a quail egg and melted manchego cheese:
Then, we got dessert. I might want to explain something about this type of dinner: the guests are all bloggers who are there with their cameras and getting a bit crazy each time a dish comes, so they can get a good shot. But, often, we help each other, for instance holding some items, such as my friend Malini, The Restaurant Fairy, who was holding for me the Caramelo de Algodon or pear cotton candy, a surprising dessert with an amazing pear flavor.
The second dessert was churros. Don't look further: the chocolate was inside!
The dessert were accompanied with a moscatel, Senorio de Sarria:
As well as a cortado, a coffee similar to a macchiato.
This was such a fantastic meal: there was no dish that I did not like and I was literally blown away by the food. Chef Rodriguez is like an artist and the plate is his canvas. I cannot wait to see what his next project, soon to open will be.
Enjoy (I did)!
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