Food For Thought — March 31, 2016 at 1:25 pm

Nai Tapas Proves That Small Portions Are the Way To Go

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Tapas hold a special place in my heart. Living for a brief time in Spain during my college years helped me to broaden my palate and fall in love with the culture. And let’s face it, tapas are a genius idea. You get to try multiple dishes without filling up on just one thing. Every restaurant should be a tapas restaurant. Wishful thinking, I know. But fortunately for me, I live in New York City where there’s a hub of foods from every corner of the earth. Including tapas!

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I recently had the opportunity to check out Nai Tapas, an East Village restaurant that specializes in Galician dishes by restauranteur and chef Ruben Rodriguez and David Martinez, who plays the role of both general manager and wine director. The rustic dining room is made cozier by the original Spanish artwork displayed on the walls and the carvings in the exposed brick walls. There’s also a large custom-made bar that houses plenty of Spanish wines, along with everything else you’d hope to find at a bar, as well as house-made sangrias.

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This all makes for a great backdrop to the star of the show, which is the food here. Bringing a unique spin on traditional tapas, chef Rodriguez incorporates the art and science of molecular gastronomy into his dishes. For those of you unfamiliar with it, molecular gastronomy puts on display the physical and chemical reactions that take place during cooking — using tools like carbon dioxide to create foams or bubbles and liquid nitrogen to flash freeze. So it goes without saying that these are tapas you can’t find at just any old Spanish restaurant.

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Lucky for us, we got to try a plethora of dishes on the menu – from Gambas al Ajillo (shrimp in garlic sauce) to Costilla con Salmorejo Canario (marinated baby back ribs with manchego cheese fries and fried peppers). There were many standouts, including the Ostra con Aire Limón, which comprised of fresh oysters topped with lemon air, along with fresh fruit rinds in Cava. This took the need of squirting lemon on your oysters out of the picture and made for a new take on your classic oyster. Don’t overlook the Tostada de Lubina, a dish with Chilean sea bass wrapped in toast and topped with serrano ham wrapped asparagus spears. This was definitely one of the hits of the night and a surprise standout.

If we’re being honest, though, there was nothing on the menu that didn’t impress us. Plus, the presentation was beautiful, as well, which is always a nice bonus. With all the tasty things happening at Nai Tapas, we were extremely excited to learn that they will be expanding (hopefully this summer), opening a second floor, which will offer diners a few different tasting menu options to choose from. Additionally, they currently have flamenco nights on Thursdays and Saturdays, with shows at both 8:30 and 10:30pm. We’ll certainly be back and we hope to see you there!

Twisted Talk: Where do you go for tapas in the city? Do you like Spanish food? Discuss below!

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