Ah, to be in Spain—sitting in a quaint neighborhood café, sipping a glass of local wine and surrounded by tantalizing dishes to entice your taste buds. If the airfare across the Atlantic is too steep, you might try an evening at Tasca, the new tapas restaurant/wine bar in the West Village.
The decor of this dimly lit, yet light-hearted establishment is an amalgam—as if Gaudi and Dalí had a love child who ran off to live in New York. Everything here is curved and fluid—sharp angles have been banished. The mosaic-tiled bar, white-washed walls, warped ceiling and light fixtures that hang over the bar like wax dripping from the ceiling are all infused with a Catalan design sensibility as seen through the eyes of a New Yorker. Though I can see the urban concrete world of Seventh Avenue through the windowed facade, it feels far removed. I found myself transported and vacationing in Barcelona—if only the wait staff had Spanish accents and looked like Penelope Cruz.
With 19 Spanish wines available by the glass (ranging from $8-$14) and 23 tapas selections, making a decision can be a bit dizzying. Within seconds of placing our order, the first of our tapas arrived: Cruda de Bonita ($11), thinly sliced raw tuna with shaved fennel and blood oranges; and Ceviche ($9), which is served in a small glass bowl surrounded by a bed of spicy popcorn. We had already asked the waitress about the popcorn.
“Oh, that’s the traditional way it’s served.”
“Really?” I inquired.
“Oh, actually, I don’t know. I just made that up. But it’s good.” Hmmm, not so much. Both the ceviche and the sliced tuna should be served at room temperature, allowing all the subtle flavors to shine through. These, however, had obviously been pre-plated and stuck in the fridge (a dining pet peeve of mine). The plates and food were so ice cold, I practically got brain freeze. It’s unfortunate, because from what I could tell, the flavors were actually quite good—just too chilled to be fully appreciated.
Next came the Empanada de Ternera Picante ($10), a spicy beef empanada—a supposedly warm dish—which wasn’t quite warm enough. However, if patience is its own reward, then our patience certainly paid off with the next three hot dishes: Pinchos Morunos ($11), kebabs of cumin infused lamb with mashed chick peas; Solomillo de Pulman ($10), grilled hanger steak with roasted garlic; and, the shining star here, Costilla Fuego Lento ($11), sangria-braised short ribs with sweet potato bread pudding. It’s a succulent, tangy dish that’s not to be missed.
For dessert we had Crema Catalana ($7), a crème brûlée-type concoction topped with warm figs, as well as Churros ($7), fingers of fried pastry covered in sugar and accompanied by chocolate and dulce de leche dipping sauces. Both were exceptional and left me with a sugar buzz that lasted well into the night.
Depending on your own personal time constraints, you can eat and be out in less than an hour, or take the leisurely route and relax over a glass of wine and a light meal. But take note: If you require large, American-sized portions to satiate your appetite, it will take six or seven of these small plates to fill you up which, along with wine and desert, can add up to mucho dinero.
Besides offering dinner (5 p.m.-2 a.m.), they also serve a wonderful weekend brunch (11 a.m.-4 p.m. for $13.95), with Huevos Benedicto (Eggs Benedict with spinach and ham) and Torrija con Compote de Fruta (a kind of Spanish “French” toast) being the two standouts.
With the pleasing combo of savory food, interesting wine selection, engaging music and inviting atmosphere, Tasca overcomes its few shortcomings to feel like a little bit of Barcelona in Greenwich Village. OK, maybe it’s not exactly Spain, but I can dream.
130 7th Ave. (at 10th St.)