You know what we have a lot of in New York City? Spanish restaurants. However, most of them cater to the Sex And The City, sangria sipping, happy hour crowd looking for small plates with a side of Hepatitis A (we warned you about Alta, b...
You know what we have a lot of in New York City? Spanish restaurants. However, most of them cater to the Sex And The City, sangria sipping, happy hour crowd looking for small plates with a side of Hepatitis A (we warned you about Alta, by the way). When was the time you went to a Spanish restaurant for a serious meal? It’s probably been a minute. That’s because big time Spanish restaurants don’t tend to do so well around these parts. People seem very content chowing down on paella and mediocre salt cod fritters. A well known chef from Spain has come to New York with the intention of changing this. Will he succeed? Probably not.
Manzanilla is the Big Apple debut of acclaimed Spanish chef, Dani García. García is famous for being one of the first to bring liquid nitrogen into the kitchen and runs a number of stellar restaurants en España including Calima, his multi Michelin starred signature establishment of modern techniques in Andalucía. Being that we’re not massive molecular gastronomy fans, we were skeptical going into this meal. But the menu doesn’t get too adventurous, it adds bells and whistles to Spanish brasserie classics instead of doing weird sh*t just for the sake of showing off, so that’s good for those of us who actually want to eat food and not science experiments.
We enjoyed a couple of dishes at Manzanilla, others not so much. It’s definitely possible to have a solid meal here if you order correctly, focusing on the starters and appetizers rather than the entrees. That’s where we found most of the good stuff. García’s flair for the unexpected impressed, yet his failure to execute the simple stuff flopped. Manzanilla is big on space and low in character. Despite the chef’s background, nothing about this restaurant made you feel like you were dining anywhere near the Mediterranean Sea. With its big open kitchen and fancy dishware, Manzanilla feels just like any other typical restaurant that probably hired a “creative agency” to design and caters to those with crisp blazers and deep pockets. Only this time, many have Spanish accents.
We wouldn’t recommend going out of your way to dine here, but you can certainly do a lot worse. That being said, if you’re planning a huge dinner, this is your spot. Tables in the main dining room can seat 12-20 if necessary and there’s a massive private lair downstairs for private parties. It’s also worth checking out when in need of a last minute reservation at a “hot new restaurant”; given the amount of space and the lukewarm response this place has gotten from critics, there will be plenty to be had.
Photo Credit: Daniel Krieger
Tomato TartareA fancy way of saying Pan Con Tomate, which is always a nice way to start off a Spanish meal.
Oxtail BriocheWe loved these bad ass steamed brioche buns, filled with pulled oxtail, mushroom, kale and topped with some kind of spicy sauce. We could have eaten these all night long. While the listing seems a bit par for the course, there was something different about them. Definitely order these guys.
CroquettesOne of the most impressive dishes on the menu and one that’s a must order. Squid ink and cuttlefish croquettes, which contain a frozen mixture of cuttlefish stew made with milk and mussel juice underneath the fried exterior. Once bitten, an explosion of delicious, wide ranging flavor enters your mouth. It’s quite the party.
Pulpo A La GallegaIf you don’t like the taste of smoke, move on. If you do, indulge. While this octopus listing sounds run of the mill, it’s anything but. García’s version of Galician octopus is fun and exciting. Small pieces of blackened octopus sit atop plump potato gnocchi which he uses a blowtourch on. The kicker though, is the dish rolls to the table covered by a dome, and once removed, a cloud of cherrywood smoke escapes, leaving its smokey mark all over this dish.