Living in NYC, you tend to get spoiled very, very quickly. Take a walk outside and you're hit with more choices and possibilities than you could ever imagine. The East Village (my neighborhood) is easily one of the most vibrant and eclectic neighborhood in the city. I love that I can find multiple izakayas (japanese pub style restaurant with lots of inexpensive snacks to wash down with beer/simple cocktails), bakeries, a japanese food market, tattoo parlors, game stores and italian/chinese/afghan/indian/japanese/tibetan restaurants within a block or two. There are just so many choices that I usually have to weed out new places to try through reviews (blogs, newspapers, flickr, friends) which is fun but recently, the ratio of hits vs. misses has been pretty bad. I've done a lot of dining out over the last year and it's getting harder and harder to find places that I instantly adore and return to again and again. I'm not sure if that's a function of my tastes changing or whether I'm looking for the wrong qualities in restaurants.
Happily, I can say that I had an amazing food experience very recently at a restaurant right in my neighborhood - a place I've passed by dozens of times before and only thought to try when I was looking for an inexpensive and convenient tapas place.
175 Second Ave., nr. 11th St.
Hours: 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily.
Prices: $3.50 per tapa.
This place was completely and totally amazing. The dining room is narrow, cozy and the best perch is right in front of the bartender who will tell you all sorts of stories about the inspiration behind the dishes, the chefs who patronize the bar during the wee hours of the morning, the ingredients and anything you care to ask about the alcoholic offerings.
- Sweet, juniper-scented slices of pork belly served with an herbal white-bean purée: Absolutely the hand-down best dish we tried - we ordered 2 plates and it still wasn't enough.
- Tomato sorbet-purée dappled with olive-oil powder on a grilled brioche roll: very interesting dish... this was inspired/designed by Wylie Dufresne (of WD-50 fame) as were many of the other dishes. I would have found this more enjoyable if the roll had been a little less soggy.
- Cabrales cheesecake with white chocolate - this had an intense blue cheese flavor but was extremely creamy and paired well with the white chocolate
- Strawberries and cream on a soft, sweet brioche: Delicious! Simple and perfect.
- Strawberry sangria with mint and cardamom: very tasty though a bit herbal for me. A carafe was $13 and doled out 3 servings.
- Cucumber sangria: The bartender finished off our night of wining and dining with 2 complimentary carafes of the cucumber sangria. I actually liked this better than the strawberry - it was light, refreshing and had a really clean taste. Worked perfectly to round out our meal.