Dani García has two Michelin stars at his minimalist-style Calima in the Andalusian resort community of Marbella (we also named his more traditional La Moraga, at Spain's Málaga–Costa del Sol Airport, one of our 31 Best Airport Restaurants Around the World). Soon García will open a restaurant in New York City, called Manzanilla, on Park Avenue South at 26th Street. His partner in the enterprise is Yann de Rochefort, whose previous contributions to Spanish gastronomy in America are the Boqueria tapas bars in New York (two) and Washington, D.C.
I sat down with García at Madrid Fusión to ask him a few questions about the place.
Colman Andrews: Why did you decide to open in New York?
Dani García: Because for me, it's the best city in the world. It is a very exciting city. But it's very difficult to work here.
DG: I have to change a lot of things. I have to learn about the seasons there, and about the vegetables. People in New York eat a lot of Brussels sprouts and kale, which we don't use very much in Spain. Sandwiches mean something different. Salads are very different, too. In Spain, a salad is leaves and maybe tomatoes and the dressing is olive oil, sherry vinegar, and salt. In America, you like vegetables in your salad, different textures, and the dressings might have different vinegars, yogurt, mint… In Spain, the food is simpler, more elegant. In New York, people like more things in their food. When I make the fish soup from Málaga called gazpachuelo, for instance, in Spain it has only cod, but in New York I will put cauliflower cooked two ways, puréed and fried. I have never fried cauliflower, but in New York, people love fried cauliflower.
CA: If you change everything for American tastes, will Manzanilla still be a Spanish restaurant?
DG: It will be a Spanish restaurant for New Yorkers, with Spanish products and a Spanish attitude.
CA: What are some of the other dishes you'll serve?
DG: Some special crudités, a Cabrales [blue cheese] omelette with kimchee, smoked octopus with potato and paprika, slow-cooked lamb with pistachios and sweetbreads, oxtail with kale and mushrooms, camarones [large shrimp] imported from Cádiz, three rice dishes — one black one with squid ink, one vegetarian with mushrooms and Valdeón cheese, one with lobster and a carpaccio of red shrimp…
CA: What do you think of the other Spanish restaurants in New York?
DG: They are very good, but they are all tapas. This will be a very real restaurant. There will be a few tapas, but it will be more like a brasserie.
CA: How much time will you actually spend at Manzanilla?
DG: I am not a consultant. This is my restaurant. It's very important to me. I want to be there a lot of days.