Spuntino Wine Bar and Italian Tapas

Spuntino Wine Bar and Italian Tapas
at The Gallery at Westbury Plaza
1002 Old Country Rd
Westbury NY 11590
(516) 228-5400
Official Site

The fare in most US malls mainly consist of the usual suspects of the food court, which is predominantly led by the essential food chains of the world. In Garden City, Long Island, The Gallery at Westbury Plaza mall offers shoppers a different take on mall food with a spunky restaurant called, Spuntino Wine Bar and Italian Tapas.

An offshoot of the Clifton NJ location, (which, oddly enough is also located in the mall), Spuntino opened in the ground floor of The Gallery at Westbury Plaza in 2014.  Occupying a large space, the restaurant has a bar area with communal tables in the middle, and a lengthy marble top bar that are often filled with locals. The industrial designed dining room has an open kitchen and walls of enclosed wine racks. It has semi-circle booth seats and plenty of uncovered tables to go along with metal dining chairs. Light bulbs hanging from the ceilings lit up the whole room.

Spuntino practices the “locavore” movement. Many of its ingredients come from the surrounding area of Long Island. The menu has a variety of choices at a very reasonable price.

A good way to start a meal here is having the bruschetta of SEARED TUNA -Topped with arugula, chili peppers, olives and lemon zest Bruschetta. Two pieces of grilled bread topped with superbly seared tuna bursting in spiciness and acidity. Another good starter is theInsalata” of BURRATA –Maple roasted butternut squash, garlic chili oil, balsamic glaze.

For pasta, the CASARECCE ALLA NORMA- Casarecce, Italian cherry tomato, grilled eggplant and smoked mozzarella was a joy to have.  Its sauce had a nice hint of sweetness and charred smokiness. The RISOTTO AI FUNGHI- Vialone nano rice, wild mushroom ragu, fontina and mascarpone cheese finished with rosemary and truffle oil had a rich consistency and a strong earthiness. Their LAMB CHOPS Gluten Free – Herb-marinated lamb chop was cooked in the simplest form and has beautiful herbal flavors.


Seafood dishes like the CALAMARI-Hand-cut, breaded to order, calamari served with house-made tomato sauce was fried to have a nice clean crispiness. OCTOPUS- Farro, olives, celery and cherry tomatoes with lemon vinaigrette and parsley oil were tender chunks of grilled octopus meat resting on top of bed of farro. Enhancing this dish was the citrus elements from lemon vinaigrette. SEARED SALMON – Roasted cherry tomatoes on the vine, fresh wild herb vinaigrette was nicely done. The salmon’s outer layer has a beautiful seared texture while having a sumptuous inner part. The dish was server with a sprig of sweet and sour that blended harmoniously with the salmon.

At Spuntino the kitchen emphasizes on taste that are both pleasant and satisfying. The cooking is simple and uncomplicated. To pair with the food is the restaurant vast’s wine list. Though the list is predominantly Italian they also offer wines from other countries, as well as from local Long Island wineries.

Spuntino is not your typical place to dine at a mall outside of New York City. It is a Manhattan quality restaurant that offers delicious food at a decent price with good wine in a relaxed environment. To have an enjoyable meal at Spuntino is almost a guarantee.

 

 

Carma

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Carma
38-40 Carmine St,
New York, NY 10014
(212)243-0388
Official Site

A la carte tasting is what I often refer to as small plates or tapas style dining. To be able to sample a variety of dishes is a pure joy to the palate. Along Carmine Street in the West Village, Carma, an Asian tapas and wine bar allows guests with such experience. Their modern Asian fare with Western influences was created by the same executive chef of the Michelin starred DinTai Fung. The food was such hit for New Yorkers that Carma expanded to the East Village with Carma Dim Sum Bar.

The restaurant has two separate dining rooms filled with smooth wooden top tables and Danish designed chairs. It has exposed brick walls, herringbone pattern oak floors, and light bulbs that drop down from the ceiling illuminating the whole space. During good weather, an outdoor area in the back is available for al fresco dining. The vibe in the restaurant is chill and is equaled by a tremendously friendly service.

One menu is offered all day at Carma that consist of mainly small plates made for sharing. Many of the dishes are moderately priced, none exceeding more than $20 (except for the whole fish which is market price). Dining in a group allows everyone to easily sample the whole menu.

Highlighting Carma’s “Signature Dim Sum” was the Foie Gras Soup Dumpling. Decadent foie gras infused soup trapped inside the dumplings is released in one bite. This was probably the best dumplings I’ve ever had.

The tapas selection of Tempura Fresh Water Eel…Burrata Cheese, Cucumber, Served with Bun, was nicely done in putting together the richness of the Burrata cheese with the eels graininess. Mexican inspired PEKING DUCK TACOS – Shredded Peking duck marinated in homemade Hoisin BBQ sauce came in three small hard tacos. The combination of the flavorful shredded duck meat and the homemade guacamole created a terrific filling.

Fresh White Fish Cakes looks more like Chinese mini buns than a cake. Cooked pan fried, giving top and bottom a burnt crust, and in the middle of the cake was the delicious grounded white fish stuffing. Five Spice Beef…Served with Pickled Radish were slices of sweet marinated cured beef served in room temperature. It had dry texture similar to beef jerky but is also tender and is easily chewed.

The Kung Pao Organic Chicken Breast…Hot Chili Pepper, Peppercorn, Spinach Sauce was not your typical Kung Pao chicken. The sauce was made from spinach sprinkled with pepper corn and nuts that surprisingly went extremely well with the all fieriness on the plate. This was an ingenious reinvention of classic Chinese fare. The Organic Chicken Lettuce Wrap on the other hand was the weakest and the most uninspiring dish I had here. Yet it still managed to please my palate with its flavorings.

 

Vegetable dishes such as The Spicy Hunan Chinese Celery & Smoked Tofu had a good blend of spiciness and smokiness. The mixture of the contrasting texture of the tofu softness and the crunchiness of the celery worked well together. Roasted Japanese Eggplant with spicy garlic sauce was served piping hot in a cover bowl. Once the cover was removed it yielded beautiful savory aromas. Eggplant served like a sponge absorbed all those fantastic flavors from the sauce.

“Carma House Special” like the Baked Miso Cod, was a sumptuous piece of cod coated in sweet sauce. Fresh sautéed Chinese broccoli and eggplant on the plate serve as a terrific accompaniment to the cod. The fried Coconut Milk Calamari has a beautiful crispiness and the distinct coconut milk can be tasted in the batter.

The kitchen’s creativity in reinventing Asian cuisine and incorporating global ingredients was impressive. On every plate there was an assortment of flavor combination that worked well with one another while also keeping the taste of the Far East intact. To pair perfectly with their food is their decent drink list that consisted of an eclectic wine selection, imported beer, Asian inflicted cocktail, and an assortment of sake.

New York City is full of “Modern Asian” or “Asian Fusion” restaurant, which have its unique differences. This can cause some confusion on the plate which type really is. At Carma, they are able to blend East and West cooking that produces a successful “Asian Fusion” cuisine.

2016 Dining Recap

 

Having visited a handful of Michelin starred, World’s 50 Best and other top restaurants in Asia and Europe, 2016 was great dining year. My journey began at Hong Kong where I dined at Lung King Heen, the very first three Michelin-starred Chinese restaurant in the world. Needless to say, it had an extremely high quality Cantonese food. The restaurants location on the fourth floor of the Four Season hotel boasts a panoramic view of Victoria Harbor. The two Michelin-starred Amber at Landmark Mandarin Oriental offers a terrific weekend wine lunch which consists of five courses paired with four glasses of wine. This was one of the best deals out there at 928 HKD for a restaurant at this caliber. Dinner at the L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon (the only of the L’Ateliers with three Michelin stars) was also quite superb.

I waited in queue for hours at Tim Ho Wan in Sham Shui Po, which at that time was the cheapest Michelin starred restaurant in the world (until that distinction was awarded to Singapore’s Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken in the summer of last year). The dim sum was tasty and I enjoyed every single dish that I had. Frog legs and chicken congee at Tasty Congee & Wuntun Noodle Shop in the IFC was nothing short of delicious. Even better was the chicken and fish congee at the concierge recommended Sang Kee Congee Shop in Sheung Wan. 208 Ducento Otto serves up wonderful cocktails while Angel Share Whisky Bar & Restaurant and its expansive list of whisky is a must-visit for enthusiast while in Hong Kong.

That same journey through Asia led me to Tokyo, Japan. I had my very first meal in this sprawling metropolis at RyuGin, Chef Seiji Yamamoto’s flagship restaurant which has three Michelin stars and ranked number 31 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurant. The modern kaiseki that it serves is a reflection of the agricultural bounty of Japan. With each dish skillfully prepared, this was one of the best meals I’ve had. In Ginza, the Omakase at the three Michelin-starred Sushi Yoshitake did not disappoint. The fish and other seafood used in every single piece of Nagiris were extremely fresh. Sushi might be star of the show at this restaurant, but the cooked dishes were equally sublime. It was highlighted by the abalone liver sauce mixed with sushi rice which was a mind-blowing dish that still resonates in my memory.

Hideki Ishikawa is Japan’s most decorated chef/restaurateur with three restaurants under his belt totaling eight Michelin stars. He also has the distinction shared by the likes of the Robuchon’s , the Keller’s and the Ducasse’s to have two restaurants at the same with the maximum rating from the Michelin guide. At his eponymous Ishikawa, I was served a wonderful contemporary style kaiseki that shows simplicity with plenty of subtle flavors. I also visited Kohaku the other three star restaurant of Chef Ishikawa, which is located in the same area and within walking distance from each other. The kitchen is under Koji Koizumi a disciple of Chef Ishikawa. There are many of similarities between them, but the two are distinctly different at the same time. Kohaku is a more modern prepared kaiseki that incorporate foreign ingredients, which are not usually use in Japanese cuisine.

Japan is surprisingly home to one of the finest French restaurant outside of France. Others can argue that it might better than its home country due to the high quality of ingredients it uses produced by Japan. Many of the top French chefs has an outpost sprinkled throughout country, but a large number of them are concentrated in Tokyo. I had a superb tasting menu at Chef Pierre Gaganaire, Two restaurant Peirre Gagnaire Au Tokyo on the 35floor of the ANA Intercontinental, which was awarded two Michelin stars. Each plate were carefully crafted, using only the finest local ingredients. As a bonus, guests enjoyed the scenic view of the whole city as the backdrop while dining. In Roppongi Hills, I dined at Chef of the Century Joel Robochon L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon. Along with Paris, the Tokyo branch is one of the first L’Ateliers. Having previously gone to the Hong Kong location, these two Michelin starred restaurant are a lot more casual, yet the quality of food is equally top-notched.

Inside the train station in Ginza, resides a minuscule ramen shop called Kagari Echika, which has garnered a lot of following. They served me tasty bowl of ramen, with a broth that has a certain delightful creaminess. In Shinjuku, high above the mall of the train station is Tenichi, where I had some delicate fried tempura accompanied with fresh sashimi. While at Sushi Mamire, I was served with affordable yet enjoyable pieces of sushi and rolls. Pagliaccio Due in Shiba, is an Italian restaurant that serves pleasant dishes like the Seafood Rissotto, and the spaghetti with fish. Night caps in the New York Bar at the Park Hyatt Tokyo, were made lively with tunes from a funky jazz show. Soon after I feasted with the hotel famous weekend brunch. Finally, visiting Japan is not complete without trying the world famous Kobe beef. At Kobe Beef Kaiseki 511, I had a magical experience without breaking the bank. The beef was as good as advertised, and every bite was heavenly like cotton candy that melts in the mouth.

From Izakaya’s, to noodle shops, to high end kaiseki, sushi (as well as low end), and to fine French restaurants, I had the greatest time dining in Tokyo. The uncompromising use of quality ingredients in this city restaurant makes Tokyo the gastronomic capital of the world. The two weeks I spent there was simply not enough.

The next stop in my search and passion for fine dining was a short trip to Basel, Switzerland. I had the opportunity to dine at the three Michelin star, Cheval Blanc. The restaurant is located in one of Europe’s oldest hotel Le Trois Rois. Bavarian chef Pete Knogl, is in charge of the kitchen and under his leadership Cheval Blanc was elevated to culinary stardom. The tasting menu has global influences and shows the precision cooking technique of Chef Knogl. Each dish was light and has a fantastic complex combination of flavors and textures.

I couldn’t end 2016 without grazing the home front for some great eats. After all, no one can beat New York City in anything, (at least to a New Yorker that is). I had very good meals at the Upper East Side’s, The NUAA. This beautifully decorated restaurant serves refined Thai fare that’s geared towards the Western palate. Last year, I saw an onslaught of new eateries opening up in the Financial District improving the neighborhood’s restaurants scene. Among them is Eataly Downtown which opened to the public last summer. Much smaller than its older siblings in the Flatiron, this mega food market brought a slew of dining options that includes another outlet of the seafood haven, Il Pesce. The restaurant offers appetizing sustainable seafood prepared in the simplest form. As the last stop of my 2016 journey, West Village Carma Asian Tapas, served an unmatchable creative Far Eastern fare in small plate format. I enjoyed the way the kitchen recreated classic Chinese dishes, as well as using other Western ingredients that aren’t usually found in Asian cooking.

Though 2016 didn’t boast much of my hometown’s variety of eateries, it was a star studded year of dining in the international level. Overall, I would say it was great and successful year of eating. I’m looking forward to an even better 2017 where I plan to focus on New York City, its outer boroughs and state side. Hopefully, I can sprinkle few international trips here and there.

Despana SOHO

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Despaña SOHO
408 Broome St
New York, NY 10013
212 219 5050
Official Site

In New York City you can travel the globe without using a passport, from Japan to France. Food has a way of allowing an individual to enjoy a culture through its native dishes. Luckily we live in a city that is a melting pot of cultures. All that is needed is a metro card.

Spanish fare is a favorite amongst many and right here in the popular SOHO, Despana is a few short steps to Spain.

From the moment you walk through the doors, it feels like you’ve just travelled to Spain in mere seconds. There’s Jamon Iberco – cured hams – on display by the entrance. Refrigerated counter tops with an array of manchego cheese, meats, and chorizo that were made at Despana’s original location in Queens. On the opposite side of the store are bottles of olive oils stacked neatly on the wall, along with vinegars and jams imported directly from Spain as well as various canned sea foods that the region is well known for producing.

Despana is not just like any other boutique store in the neighborhood but rather a food journey of the different Spanish regions. The staff is well informed and willing to educate those that are unfamiliar with this particular type of food. Samples are available throughout the store to tantalize the taste buds prior to purchasing.

 

 

 

 

Aside from being a store, Despana also boasts a café where customers can experience authentic Spanish flavors. It offers excellent tapas and bocadillos, a type of Spanish sandwich, as well as premade pinxtos and tortillas (also known as a Spanish omelette) that are on display behind the counter.

Located in the back the café is fitted with a dining area where guests can enjoy these delectable dishes. The space has three communal marbled topped tables paired with metal red chairs, its white tiled walls are decorated with two large mirrors and industrial pendant lamps provide a well lit area for a casual sit down meal.

Not only does everything look good and with the price of the most expensive item on the menu not exceeding more than $10 it is easy to over indulge.

Pintxos are similar to bruschetta that takes about two to three bites to consume. The Bacalao Croquette, Tortilla, Manchego, Spicy Sardine, and Boqarones are all very good considering they’re pre-made. The Piquillo Rebozado made with Piquillo peppers stuffed with cod and the omelette with shrimp salad called Tortilla and Gambas were my favorites.

 

 

 

 

There are 15 different kinds of Bocadillos to choose from. Most of the sandwiches contain pork ingredients like ham and chorizo served on delicious Ciabatta bread. Since I don’t eat pork (personal preference), my choices were limited. They also have a vegetarian option with roasted vegetables. The bocadillos I had an opportunity to taste were the Pescador and the Torilla Bocadillo, both were delightful, but the Pescador stood out most. I enjoyed the flavor combination of the Aioli, white tuna, and anchovies in this.

They also have stellar tapas offerings like the Boquarones, white anchovies with garlic and parsley and for the olive lover the Spanish Olives is a must. It’s a mix of the country’s different kinds of marinated olives. There is an Octopus and Olive Oil tapas, one of the best octopus dish that I’ve had in New York City. The octopus meat has a soft texture while the paprika added a wonderful flavor. I like that the ingredients used in their food is also available in the store. This allows the customers to be creative and design their own tapas in the comfort of their own home.

 

 

Despana offers Spanish vinos and beer from their wine store located right next door. They serve tasty sangria, which is as good as the one I’ve had in Spain. It has the perfect balance of sweetness and thickness of the red wine.

Unfortunately, Despana in SOHO is only open till 7pm, so I usually come for a late lunch or an early dinner. During that time the café is empty and not as crowded on the weekend where hoards of tourist visiting Little Italy and Chinatown tend to pack this place. How I wished they would stay open later.

Who would have thought that Despana, a store that sells high quality edible products from Spain, also offers food that is even better than some of these so called “Spanish” restaurants in New York City?

Danji

Dining Room

Danji
346 W 52nd St
New York, NY 10019
(212) 586-2880
Official Site

When a restaurant receives raving reviews after only a few months it opened its doors to the public and a star for each year that it has been in full operation by the Michelin guide (including the 2013 edition), then it must be worth a visit . I’m talking about Danji here, a modern Korean restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen where the chef and owner Hooni Kim previously cooked for some of New York City’s most notable restaurants like Daniel and Masa. Chef Kim’s interpretation of Korean cuisine combined with his French technique in small plate offerings has been impressing this city’s demanding diners for the past few years.

This tiny restaurant on West 52nd street has a total seating available for less than 40 people. Danji’s narrow layout is designed with a beautiful golden bar top in the front that can easily get crowded from guest waiting to be seated due to the restaurant’s no reservation policy for parties less than six. The bar is followed by two communal counter tables both accompanied by white frame high chairs. In the back are a series of two top tables and a long bench. The space is decorated with clay pots that are displayed along the whitewashed brick walls, hanging light bulbs from the ceiling and a section divider that showcases an assortment of wooden and metal spoons.

 

 

The staff is informative and warm. Old guests are welcomed while new ones are instructed that the menu is located in the drawer of the table. They will answer all of your questions about the menu and will even provide recommendations to make the meal more enjoyable.

Danji’s small plates are very good and reasonably priced. There is no item that cost more than $20. The menu is divided into “modern” and “traditional” dishes with close to ten items on each. A party of four can easily run through the entire menu.

An earthly bowl of mushroom risotto with truffle oil is a great intro to a wonderful meal and a side order of the trio of kimchi is an excellent compliment to each plate.

The best dish that I had here was the Poached Sablefish w. Spicy Daikon. This happens to be SPE certified .The poached sable fish has a nice soft texture and soaked in dark, sweet sauce that is very appealing to the palate. The chef, as well as our server recommended ordering a side of white rice to soak up all the succulent sauces after devouring the fish.

 

 

I enjoyed the spicy ‘K.F.C.’ Korean fire chicken wings. It has a nice crunch and spiciness. Another outstanding plate was the Spicy Yellow Tale Sashimi. The fresh fish that Chef Kim uses for the was so tender that it melts in your mouth and the jalapenos add a nice kick with every bite.

The Bulgogi beef sliders were tasty. The beef seemed like it was marinated with some sort of Asian or soy sauce that is very recognizable. The fried calamari with wasabi mayo was cooked just right and minimal chewing was required to break it down. The wasabi mayo added another depth to the taste.

During the lunch, excellent rice bowls like farmers market bibim – bop and dup bop brisket bulgogi are available as well as the empanada-like handmade vegetable dumplings.

 

 

All of these savory dishes goes along with Danji’s decent selection of sake, soju and an Asian inspired cocktail list. A price range between $20 – $50 for a bottle of sake or soju, while the majority of cocktails are priced at $12.

Chef Hooni Kim might not be a house hold name yet like David Chang when it comes to Korean cuisine, but his cooking and his restaurant Danji are simply superb. The food and the hospitality are always on point. It was consistent throughout my visits to Danji.

Aria Wine Bar

Aria Wine Bar
117 Perry St
New York, NY 10014
(212) 242-4233

Tapas or small plates have been a staple of Spanish cuisine for ages. I consider this concept an ala carte version of the tasting menu. It is an excellent way to experience multiple dishes a restaurant has to offer without being committed to an entrée that may be lack luster. In New York City, Spanish restaurants are not the only ones who specialize in this concept. In the case of Aria Wine Bar, it has perfected the small plate offering in Italian style.

I know what you’re thinking… wine bar… soft relaxing music… sipping a glass of wine… maybe nibbling on a Panini… WRONG! Aria Wine Bar is far from your typical wine bar. It is loud… it is cramped! You are literally elbow to elbow with strangers and you are enjoying your food and wine right next to the bartender as he mixes cocktails. You are so close to your neighbors that in addition to your own conversation don’t be surprised if you also hear from one ear the angst of a young adult struggling for independence from overbearing parents and out of the other ear band mates planning their next session. Aria Wine Bar is always packed with beautiful West Villagers on a nightly basis. It nixed the loungey piano music for hip hop and pop music. This is truly an enjoyable atmosphere.

The wine bar is a replica of a cellar in a 19th century home. There are wooden beams that run from end to end of the ceiling, exposed brick walls and worn out wooden flooring for a rustic, chic interior. A wooden communal table next to steel pylon in the middle and a white tiled bar where people can sit in front of each other are paired with industrial metal high chairs. Hanging cured meats and wine bottles that are neatly placed behind each other are visible throughout the place. There is also a weathered wood counter that runs along the windows where diners can choose to sit and do some people watching along Perry Street.

The menu is affordable and extensive. It also includes a selection of cheese plates and cured meats that are available throughout the day staring at 12 PM daily. There are no dishes that are priced over $12 which is a bargain by New York City standards, especially for the quality of the ingredients that are used.

The non-encyclopedic wine lists at this place are mainly consisting of Italian wines with a few from other parts of the globe. The wines are served in an unorthodox style: stem less wine glasses that are priced at an average of $8 per serving. The last time I had this was at Macao Trading Co. in TriBeCa a few years back.

I love going to Aria Wine Bar and trying multiple combinations of small plates so that each experience there is unique. Starting off with Aragosta e Avocado, lobster salad with avocado and arugula. In this multiple protein dish, the lobster was tender while the avocado gave a nice flavor combination. The Insalata De Mare or seafood salad was a pescetarian delight. The plate was packed with fresh sea foods that were perfectly combined. It was so fresh that I had to peak into the kitchen to see if there was an aquarium of edible sea creatures in it!

Pasta plates like The Linguine Vongole or linguine with clams was delicious. The clams were soaked in the sauce which added a sea food taste with a bit of citrus zest. Both the Macheronni al Tartufo or mac and cheese with truffle Carpaccio and the Fettuccini Ai Fungi, fettuccini with wild mushroom and truffle oil, has an earthy flavor that the truffles give to both dishes. Then there is the Raviolli Ricotta, ravioli with ricotta cheese, spinach and asparagus along with creamy sauce was very good as well and the cheese had a nice thick texture.

Next there are the small plates that are very good, like the Vongole a Originate, baked clams with oregano and lemon sauce and the Tortino di Granchio e Funghi or crab cake with mushroom. The crab cake is moist in texture while the citrus infused baked clam sauce was acidic and complimented the baked clams and its stuffing. The Calamari in Umido was another enjoyable dish as well as the Polpette al Pomodoro, meatballs and the Carciofi e Olive, sautéed artichokes and olives.

The non existence of chicken dish in the wine bar is not a deal breaker, but it would have been a nice option in the already outstanding menu. The seafood and pasta dishes more than make up for this loss.

Aria Wine Bar is a quaint and essential New York City food and drink establishment. It has the downtown atmosphere, West Village crowd and great food and drinks. Every person that I brought here agreed on one thing, they all liked this place and vowed to come back.

I was once asked for recommendation for a nice restaurant with reasonable price, tasty food, nice vibe and non-encyclopedia wine list. I answered without hesitation, Aria Wine Bar in the West Village.

Quimet Y Quimet

During my week long vacation in Barcelona Spain, I wined and dined myself with some of the freshest seafood that the Mediterranean had to offer. I ate through the tapas bar and drank the wines from the Catalonian Region. Oddly enough, I enjoyed their wine. I wandered around Barcelona and discovered places to eat and towards the end of my trip I asked my hotel concierge for a restaurant recommendation. At first he gave me a list of touristy spots but after I asked him where would he eat if he wanted a very good meal, that’s when he recommended Quimet Y Quimet.

Quimet Y Quimet is a tapas bar that has been run by the Quim family for generations. I was told by one of the staff that the gentleman making the food behind the bar is a fourth generation Quim. The space is small, standing room only, and cubed in with walls full of various wines all the way to ceiling, and a stainless steel bar where guests can park themselves and enjoy their food. Getting to the wooded table in the center of the space can be quite challenging since this place is packed with locals and a few tourists. While some waited outside, sipping their wine, until a space opened up. You will be rubbing elbows, literally, with fellow patrons like I did.

The tapas and montaditos (open face sandwiches) at Quimet Y Quimet are made from the highest quality and most expensive canned seafood’s and meats. I was really impressed at how good the canned foods are, Spain produces some of the best canned foods on the market. The menu is abundant and most of the dishes are priced between 1 to 3.50 Euro and the cheese plates will run around 9 Euro. I had a memorable feast here.Beginning with “olivas rellenas” or stuffed olives. The olives were stuffed with a seafood mixture making it a great starter. Then I had the “Combinado de queso” or cheese combination. I enjoyed the flavor of these Spanish cheeses, from sweet to sour, it was amazing–except of course the goat cheese, just a personal preference.

After my cheese plate, I ordered mostly the montaditos. I tried mainly seafood plates, except for the Pate con Setas which was made with pulled meat topped off with mushroom. The pulled meat was soft and moist while the mushroom was somewhat sautéed and tasted very good. Then the Salmon, yogurt y miel trufada, it is a version of salmon cream cheese in America but instead of cream cheese they use yogurt and top it off with truffle honey. This was the best plate I had. The truffle honey and its distinct sweetness combined with salmon along with the light texture of yogurt was enough to come back to Quimet y Quimet. Next was the “Langostinos Con Piquillo”, the red peppers (which are grown in Spain) along with the caviar is packed with flavor. Then there was the Sardinas Con Erizo, a whole sardine topped off with sea urchin, and the Sardina Ahumada y Tomate Seco, chopped sardines with tomato sauce. Both were amazing.

I left Quimet Y Quimet satisfied; there wasn’t a single dish that I did not like. Their wine list was extensive, but I enjoyed the local white wine that went well with my dishes and it did not disappoint.

The only regret I had on my trip was that I didn’t find out about Quimet Y Quimet earlier. It was the best tapas/ restaurant I had the opportunity to enjoy in Barcelona. It was also a great way to end my trip. If I ever come back to Barcelona, Spain I will definitely try to visit this place again. Hopefully they stay open; then again it has been open for four generations!

Quimet Y Quimet
Carrer del Poeta Cabanyes, 25
08004 Barcelona Spain
934 423 142

K2 Lounge at The Rubin Museum of Arts

 

K2 Lounge at The Rubin Museum of Arts
150 West 17th St.
New York NY 10011
212 620 5000
Official Site

New York City Fridays nights are the jumpstart to the weekend where endless booze and partying is the culture of this vibrant city. What a better way to kick-off the weekend than to visit the K2 Lounge at the Rubin Museum of Art’s café (aka Café@RMA.) On Friday’s the café is transformed into a vibrant lounge with Chelsea’s chic and trendy art loving crowd who enjoy the art, the drinks and the soothing yet upbeat music from the DJ’s eclectic song list (reminiscent of the playlist at Buddha Bar.)

The mix of Himalayan artwork displayed at every corner and soft neon lights from the curved ceilings, supported by round beams wrapped in brown marble wall paper, gives the atmosphere a flare of sexiness. Uniformed gold wooden round tables and chairs set against hard wood floors enhance the artsy scene. The bamboo bar crafted with an Asian aesthetic serves some pretty expensive martinis at $17 a pop. There are only 2 in house concoctions on the menu and oddly enough I like them both. One is the “Pomarita,” made with tequila, POM juice and triple sec; a great blend of taste, you can taste the tequila but it is neutralized by the sweetness of the POM juice. The other drink is the “Buddha’s Eye,” made with Midori, Malibu rum, pineapple juice and lime; very fruity but the taste of rum remains. The food at K2 Lounge is as good as the drinks. The Asian inspired dishes served tapas style were tasty and flavorful, however I come for the drinks.

 

 

As an added incentive to enter the museum, fees are waived every Friday night so if one is not inclined toward drinking; there are 6 floors of Himalayan art to be explored. Spend $7 at the lounge and you will get a free a ticket for the museum theater.

 

 

 

K2 Lounge has become one of my favorite destinations for Friday evenings. I can meet up with friends and enjoy a nice drink before heading out elsewhere to party or I can just enjoy the lounge after work and turn in early for a quiet weekend. If you ever want to impress someone and show that you have culture this is it. Booze and the arts under one roof, what a combination.

Gastroarte

* This venue is now closed.

When it comes to fine dining in NYC it’s usually dominated by Italian, French and Japanese cuisine. However, within the past year numerous Spanish restaurants have opened throughout the city. New Yorkers have seen the second coming of the Spanish Armada. The Upper West Side of Manhattan has experienced this wave firsthand with the opening of Gastroarte (aka Graffit,) “gastronomic arts” or “edible art” as I call it. Executive Chef/ Owner, Jesus Nunez is a native of Spain and a former graffiti artist. His love of art is apparent in his beautiful and colorful presentations as well as his playful modern approach to the cuisine.

I have dined at Gastroarte a few times – months have passed in between visits so I was able to witness improvements and menu changes. Some of the dishes that I had on my initial visits are no longer available; for instance: the “Shrimp Marble” carpaccio style dish which has a great texture and is very fresh and flavorful; and the “Fake Truffles” made with falafel that tasted just ok, but had an amazing presentation. Among the entrées I really enjoyed “Hake” with zuchinni cream and shrimp puree, which sadly is no longer on the menu. I also enjoyed the “Not So Average Egg,’ which is very tasty and well-seasoned; and the”Serrano Wrapped Monk Fish,” both of which are currently on the menu. The restaurant originally had a policy that the tapas menu was only available in the Tapas Bar, but I was glad that it can now be ordered in the main dining room as well.

 

 

 

 

On my most recent visit, my dining partner and I decided to share (from the tapas menu) the Albondigas De La Abuela made of meatballs with sweet potatoes cream and purple potatoes confit. We both agreed it was delicious and the sauce complemented the meatballs very well. A special chicken entrée was presented that night that was not on the menu – “Chcken Pepitoria,” pulled chicken meat placed on top of a sunny side up egg and baby zucchini with crispy fried chicken skin. The chicken was moist and meticulously prepared. Hopefully it will be a regular on the menu. And finally, I had their cheese plate consisting of 3 cheeses, Machega, pasteurized sheep milk from Machega, Tetila, a pasteurized cow’s milk and the Valdeo from pasteruzied cow and sheep’s milk. All three were very good but the Valdeo stood out with a sublime taste that I’ve never experienced in a cheese. The desserts were equally impressive like the Convertion of Bouley made with peaches and wheat. It has an interesting combination of natural sweetness from the peaches complemented by the texture of the wheat. Gastroarte complements its great tasting food with an extensive wine list from Spain.

 

 

Located on a quiet residential street this sunken restaurant is about three steps below street level. Its sleek wooden floor extends throughout the space creating an atmosphere of sexiness. The restaurant has a long layout which begins with the Tapas Bar and the Bar Room; both are visible as soon as you enter. The long white stone toped bar table is accompanied by steel metal framed high chairs completing the section . Behind the marble top bar there is an exposed brick wall with a mural mimicking urban street art. Towards the dining room there is more seating which is ideal for couples. There are booth seats directly beneath a mural of a bull and a matador over exposed brick; and fiberglass orange seats ,uncovered marble top tables completes the dining room. The soft music combined with soft lighting gives the dining room a smooth atmosphere. Glass enclosed seating at the very end of the restaurant where the sky can be seen is ideal for dinner under the stars. The crowd varies from pre and post Theater to foodies and locals enjoying the atmosphere and cuisine. The service is unpretentious and pleasant.

 

 

Chef Nunez has invaded the Upper West Side with his beautiful presentation and savory flavored dishes that New Yorkers can enjoy. His modern twist on Spanish cuisine is a great way to try something new in the neighborhood’s ever growing gastronomic scene.

Gastroarte
141 W 69th St
New York, NY 10023
646 692 8762
Official Site