Tinto: Basque In A Sultry Evening
Where can you find beautiful people and fine wine without having to go to the bull-fighting country of Spain itself? Dine at Tinto and become intoxicated in their smooth fine Spanish wines, cocktails, and full-flavored small plates.
The older sister of Village Whiskey, Tinto is another fine establishment of Jose Garces, which recently celebrated its 7-year anniversary since their opening. Drawing inspiration from the rich culinary and culture traditions of the Basque country, Tinto will titillate your taste buds of Northern Spanish cuisine in the classiest manner possible.
As you enter the Spanish tapas restaurant, you are hit with an intimate feel of closely packed booths and tables with miniature lit candles, spotless wine glasses, and parallel placed cutlery on top of the tables. Tinto not only offers bar space and a main dining room, but there are also two secret lounges tucked away. If you crave an intimate date night, you can choose to dine in Tinto’s secluded sultry lounge; if you’re celebrating a special occasion with a group, you can choose their private dining room located on the second floor.
With an elegant feel, the wait time at Tinto is not as long as you would imagine. If perhaps you find yourself in a 30-minute to hour wait (no reservation), feel free to sit at the bar and gaze at their dashing bartenders (in looks and speed) while they pour you a glass of red or white.
A friend and I recently decided to spend our rents money on food and ordered seven plates, along with a few drinks. Their dishes are small plated and have an aesthetic look that will persuade you to Instagram before you eat. From our combined efforts, here is our definitive ranking from drool worthy to content dishes.
Tied for first: Arugula and Short Rib.
The Arugula salad was the perfect opener to our extensive order. The arugula was tossed with Serrano ham, mission figs, spiced almonds and dressed with Sevilla orange vinaigrette; the combination of ham, figs, and almonds created a crunchy yet smooth texture while embellishing the freshness that a salad has. The fried goat cheese was beyond perfection and I, who does not have the aching for such cheese, liked the fried cheese ball. The crunchy outer layer gave way for the burst of goat cheese cream and in that moment, I swear we were infinite.
The Short Rib sandwich was so satisfying I was singing “Baby Got Back.” The sweetness of the celery root aïoli intensified the braised short rib flavor. Topped off with bacon and asparagus, the asparagus refreshed my palate after each bite and the bacon accentuated the flavor of the ribs.
Second: Brussels Sprouts
These sprouts had me craving for more after the plate was taken away. The texture was smooth and creamy due to the Idiazábel cheese and black truffles pairing. The Guanciale (Italian cured meat product prepared from pork cheeks) gave a nice crispy texture to contrast the smoothness of the dish as well.
I don’t think I have enjoyed something with tentacles as much as I enjoyed this Spanish octopus plate. The smoked green olive aïoli balanced the saltiness of the octopus and the spiced tomatoes. Garnished on top were two chips that tasted crispy and fresh out of the fryer.
This duck confit would have been perfection had the salt been less. As my teeth broke through the crispy skin, the juice of the duck hit all the taste buds on my tongue and it was delightful. Despite the saltiness of the duck, the lone black cherry was as sweet as chocolate and helped level out the two bites. The La Peral (mixed milk cheese) spread on the bread was also a nice contrast to the duck.
I have always loved shrimp and prawns are one of them; my friend and I were a bit too eager for this dish to come out. To our disbelief, our hopes were set high and we felt as though we were taking in our daily sodium count with each suckle and bite.
Firefly squid was the night’s special and it turned out to be less than what my friend and I hoped. It seemed as though the chef who cooked it, recently saw the movie Frozen and was singing “Let It Go” while doing the arm movements as Elsa, but instead of throwing snow, it was salt. The squid was subpar whereas the confit potato fit more to what confit means (food that has been cooked in oil or sugar water), and was more desirable than the main meat. The spring onion pureé was nicely spooned in an oval shape around the squid; droplets of chorizo aïoli were placed adjacent to each squid bunch. The pureé and aïoli added a soft sweetness to mask the sodium high firefly.
In every dish we had, paprika was a frequent appearance. Paprika was either sprinkled along the side of the dish or was hidden in the dish itself and surprised you with its subtle sweet attack, like it did in the Pulpo for me. Aside from some overly savory dishes, the food was pleasant and the La Nuez cocktail and Tempranillo wine we sipped on were strong enough that we gracefully bid agur (farewell) with a sultry sway.