Saturday, November 7, 2009
Tapas: the perfect food
Restaurant Name: Tia Pol
Location: 205 10th Avenue (Chelsea), New York City
There has always been a warm little corner of my heart reserved for tapas. What could be more perfect than a few bites each of an endless parade of dishes? New flavors, spices, textures, and surprises come in rapid succession, all washed down with plenty of good wine. Plus, for some reason, tapas restaurants are always more *fun* -- louder, warmer, more boisterous.
New York boasts many wonderful tapas joints (try Casa Mono for elevated gourmet tapas and Boqueria for more affordable, traditional, but no less tasty, tapas). Last night we tried a new place (well, new to us) called Tia Pol.
Tucked away in Chelsea, Tia Pol is a bit of a hike from the subway (especially on such a cruelly cold night for early November). But, if you arrive breathless and chilly, you'll tilt back out into the night a few hours later, warmed through and with a full, happy belly.
Being a lover of all things potato, I have to begin by saying that Tia Pol serves the very best patatas bravas I've ever had. The ones at Casa Mono are so exotic they hardly warrant the name (though are fabulously delicious) and the ones at Boqueria are cut too small and have too little sauce. Tia Pol gets the traditional fried, spicy potato with paprika aioli just right. The pieces of potato were big enough to have a crispy exterior and soft fluffy interior but still be happily bite-sized. The creamy, spicy aioli was just abundant enough to make you press the bits of potato into the corners of the dish for more but not drown the poor spuds.
Other standouts included a bruschetta with fried rock shrimp and pimenton with a tiny dab of lemon cream (salty, slightly spicy, creamy and crispy all at once) and a spicy roast pork sandwich. We also really enjoyed a cold salad of baby greens with fried artichoke hearts and leaves, white asparagus, and creamy lemon vinaigrette. The only miss here were the asparagus (out of season and thus apparently out of a jar....boo) and the fact that the artichokes would have achieved perfection had they been hot (I believe all things fried should be served hot). We finished the evening off with a plate of smoking hot seared & blistered green peppers tossed with sea salt -- SO addictive!
The wine list was baffling to us -- I don't consider myself an afficionado of Spanish wines, but I do know a bit and I didn't recognize even a single thing on the list. Such mystification, though, is just a door opening to new and wonderful experiences. All the wines we tried were lovely (lots of super-dry minerally whites).
Tia Pol is a very crowded (very tiny) restaurant. They do take reservations, but we hadn't made one. We arrived early, around 6:30pm and waited a little over a half an hour for a seat at the bar. The hostess had told us it would be a 30 minute wait, so she gave us a small plate of fried garbanzos for free as compensation (I was impressed, since the wait had only been a few minutes longer than promised, hardly something we even noticed). Those who arrived after 7pm waited over an hour to be seated. So, if you can plan ahead for it, make a reservation -- we certainly will the next time we return...which I hope will be very soon!