Friday, March 26, 2010

El Quinto Pino Review

El Quinto Pino has quickly became one of my favorite places in the city and in a little more than a month I have already returned twice. A narrow room made charming by the low lighting and dark wood, and chalkboard menus up and down the far wall and the center column. Seating options are limited to stool seating along a curved bar or along the opposite wall and a single, friendly waiter manages to keep everyone happy. Our party of four lucked out and managed to get one small bit of table that juts out from the wall. But the best way to guarantee yourself a space is to visit in pairs, or go early or late.

We started with a few dishes at a time and slowly worked our way across much of the menu, adding a couple more every time the waiter passed by. The food was fantastic and the reasonably priced drinks put you in a happy mood. I'd recommend the Pomada — Frozen Basil infused gin lemonade from Mallorca — or the sangria.

We started with the marinated lamb skewers — chunky pieces of lamb with a deep musky flavor — and the bocadillo de tortilla espanola. A sandwich of potatoes and eggs coated in a light mayonnaise sauce between two pieces of delectable doughy bread from Tom Cat bakery seems like a crazy carb overload. But this is an excellent combination, filling and wholehearted.

The uni panini: This was one of the main reasons this place had attracted my attention. In the end, it turned out to be one of the less memorable dishes of the evening, only because so much of the other food was wonderful. It was pleasantly oceany with a fair amount of sea urchin and spoke for itself.

Patatas Bravas. These were so good we got two orders of these crispy bite-size hunks of potato crisped like french fries and coated in a paprika-dusted creamy sauce. Although to some it might not sound like an endorsement, one dining companion said "I love this, it reminds me of cheese wiz."

Sonsos: Fried sand eels in adobo with an organic egg. I thoroughly enjoyed this but some of my dining companions thought it tasted too much of generic fried food. This dish transported me to New England, eating fried seafood near the water. So much of it may be just fried bits, but the faint reminder of the ocean is unmistakeable.

Torreznos: Pork cracklins that were simultaneously chewy and crispy and coated in salt. It's not hard to see these making a great snack, like a gourmet version of popcorn. If only movie theaters could serve up bags of these instead. The southern one of my dining companions said this was like something you could get at any Tennessee gas station. But we're not in Tennessee, now, are we?

Ham croquettes: These were creamy inside with little bits of ham.

Tuna meatballs: Served in a saffron-shellfish tomato sauce. Visually these resembled actual meatballs, but the texture was softer and the flavor clearly not meat, making for an almost confusing eating experience.

EQP Gambas al Ajillo: Shrimp, garlic, jalapeƱo, ginger. These went so fast I barely managed to squeeze in a photo. The shrimp were sweet and tasty and the sauce made a great dipping sauce for the accompanying slices of bread.

Bocadillo de Calamar: Fried squid sub, spicy alioli lettuce, tomato. More fried goodness, but delicious nonethless.

Caldo Gallego: Pork rib, bacon, beans, turnip greens, broth. A slightly more complex dish than some of the others and one of the few to include some vegetables!

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