Wednesday, October 19, 2011

'Put this big boy in your mouth and then tell me how you feel'

Said the bishop to the actress. Or, said TLOML whispered in my... no wait, this blog post has gone all wrong. It's a foodie one, not a filthy one.

Last night we ate tapas at  El Quinto Pino. We were debating ordering the chorizo, bread and grape dish and wondering if it was too much food. The waiter had just served us a fried squid and aioli  sandwich which was roughly the size of TLOML's head. So he recommend that we wait till we had consumed said sandwich before we went ordering any hearty meat dishes.

His turn of phrase was just a little, um, suggestive. Or maybe we've been living in Chelsea (aka Boytown) for too long - the home of 'Big Booty Buns Bakery' and real estate ads that say 'I didn't remember his name, but oh, his apartment!' Maybe it's turned me a bit saucy-minded.

Anyway, back to El Quinto Pino. We had been dying to try it for a while but couldn't find it. I had returned home one day to find TLOML raving about this 'tiny little bustling neighbourhood joint' he had passed one evening. The problem was he couldn't remember where it was. He'd passed it on the way somewhere - was it back from Whole Foods? Or that night he walked down to Union Square? He knew it was walking distance from us, and that it was tiny and tucked away, and that's all we had to go on.

So we got organised. I printed off a Google Map of the 20 blocks east of Rabbit Hutch Towers. For the next few weeks we walked a different route every time we went anywhere, looking for this amazing place he'd seen, and ticking off the blocks as we did so. Then we forgot about it.

Until, that is, a couple of weeks ago, we were mooching around the London Terrace Street Fair, on the block next to Rabbit Hutch Towers. I was peckish after walking around, because TLOML won't buy random baked goods from strangers*. As if in mirage, this dinky little restaurant appeared... El Quinto Pino!

It had been under our noses all that time, and because we never walked along 24th Street, we never saw it. It was closed that day, so we crossed 9th Avenue and went into this little Basque place we've been meaning to try for a while too: Txikito. Which is, it turns out, the sister restaurant to El Quinto Pino. Txikito do a fantastic salad with little deep fried crispy fish on top of rocket, and a poached egg hiding underneath. They serve their wine in short tumblers, Spanish style. We like it.

The guys that run El Quinto Pino and Txikito used to work at Tia Pol, which was our favourite tapas bar... till now.
This is not the restaurant's bar. This is the restaurant.

El Quinto Pino is clearly our tapas destiny. It's a tiny place with perching room for no more than twenty people. The uni panini is what they're famous for (I thought it was too mustardy, since I like to taste the sea urchin in my sea urchin sandwich). But oh my days! The croquetas, so mushy and crispy! The deep fried pork crackling, so moreish! The seared lamb, that big squid sandwich, and the octopus terrine, so savoury and delicious! Maximum umami points. Plus it's just a cool, charming little place. Scruffy in a good way - the cocktail list is chalked up on a pipe behind the bar - and with a friendly, chilled atmosphere, which somehow Tia Pol lacks. Sure, the staff are suggestive (see this post's headline), but also very pleasant.

So we have three outstanding Spanish restaurants within a 2 minute walk of Rabbit Hutch Tower. Guess those Boytown boys clearly like to eat a little Spanish. Lucky for us.

*though he will buy a Sabrett's hot dog that's been sitting on a street corner cart for 2 days.

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