The El Quinto Pino in the Chelsea district of New York offers the city’s countless tapas bar imitators a lesson in authenticity. A tiny place with a high ceiling and hardly any width at all, it has no tables, it takes no reservations, you won’t find Sangria amongst its cocktails list, and the menu doesn’t have any mention of patatas bravas, tortilla española or any of the city’s tapas regulars available dime-a-dozen. What then? Something genuinely and refreshingly different. As you enter , all you will see is a bar table running all round, and about a dozen-and-a-half stools. If they are all occupied, you might have to stand by the narrow ledge along the walls and enjoy your food and drinks there. Waiting around is just not the concept. Whether you are seated or standing, the light-bites and the drinks are served lightning quick. You sip and you bite, and after a lively evening you head out elsewhere for your dinner. That’s what the real Spanish tapas bars are all about.
The items on the menu range from the simplest classic preparations to some artful creations courtesy chef and part-owner Alex Raij. The portions are very small (though not over-priced) and the idea is that you enjoy a variety of tastes and still have an appetite for dinner. Perhaps the finest and most talked about highlight from their menu is the sea urchin sandwich, a toasted wonder involving Maine sea urchin, sweet butter and a Korean mustard oil. The fried cod, Basque anchovies and sautéed shrimp are some of the other ‘must-trys’. The wine list is not extensive, but it has a real Spanish bias. Apart from the Spanish wines, there are cocktails too for those willing to look beyond sangrias.
In keeping with the Spanish street-side bar culture, the El Quinto Pino has recently started offering breakfast too. The irresistible ensaimadas (larded sweet rolls) are freshly baked everyday, and go perfectly with an espresso and brandy concoction known as carajillo, or a submarino de chocovic, a Spanish hot chocolate drink. There is more substantial fare too, such as a ham-and-cheese sandwich, interestingly known as Bikini.
The breakfast is served only on the weekdays between 8 am and 2 pm, but the place is open every day for the evening tapas. The timings are between 5 pm-12 am from Sundays to Thursdays, and 5 pm to 1 am on Fridays and Saturdays. The prices of the items range from $3 to $15 and they accept all major credit cards. All in all, this is your rare opportunity to enjoy Spain in the Big Apple, so don’t miss it!
- Add: 401 West 24th Street, Chelsea
- Tel: (212) 206-6900.