Tablao: Tempting Tapas in Tribeca
The stretch of Greenwich Street between Harrison and Franklin boasts some of the hottest restaurants in New York, with the Tribeca Grill on one corner, Marc Forgione’s new American Cut, and The Harrison on another corner. If you’re hopping around the area don’t even consider passing by Tablao, a new mid-block tapas restaurant; it’s lively, the food is good, and the sangria is killer.
We had the opportunity to dine there recently at the invitation of the restaurant, and it certainly transported us far from the freezing air outside. It can be a little awkward getting to your table if the bar is full (more on that later), but seating is ample and comfortable. There’s an expansive roster of tapas, seafood a la plancha, montaditos, pinchos, salads, and larger plates on offer, and we tried a little bit of everything. Patatas bravas were perfectly fried and topped with a spicy ketchup aioli that they should sell by the jar. Octopus (in two preparations) is tender and flavorful. Gigantic langoustines were nicely cooked and impressively presented, split in half. Solomillo y queso Cabrales, toast topped with grilled filet mignon, Cabrales blue cheese, and a red wine reduction was decadent and tender. And for those who are fans of roast pork, the Baby Pernil is not to miss: an entire suckling Berkshire pig shank is slow roasted and served over a corn and chorizo stew, and I’d be happy eating it for dinner every night. It was falling-off-the-bone tender and the stew was intensely flavorful. The only miss was the Vierias a la Gallega, scallops baked with white wine, caramelized onions, jamon Serrano, and bread crumbs. The scallops had no browning on them, and the only other flavors I picked up were the bread crumbs and raw wine.
The bar area was hopping, which emphasized a flaw in the design: there’s very little room between the bar and the seating area, so those seated at the four-tops nearest the bar (which runs the entire length of the restaurant) had bar patrons’ backs right up against them. We also had to squeeze through a group of bar-standers to get to the table; a move the hostess numbly tackled, most likely because she’d done it many times before. Every half hour or so we heard a glass shattering; someone standing at the bar had backed into a table and knocked one of the water glasses over. Our waiter told us that this happens multiple times per night.
That said, the bar itself is a great place to sit; we wouldn’t recommend trying to stand in a group. The sangria, both white and red, is some of the best I’ve had, and it’s made to order and served in giant glasses. If you’re a fan of tapas, and all the fun that it usually entails, than you’ll like Tablao. It’s boisterous, rollicking, and loud but not too loud, and the expertly prepared and presented food matches that mood completely.