Going Tapas at Tia Pol

September 22, 2005 | By | COMMENTS

Lisa doesn’t love tapas. In various conversations, Lisa’s explained that when you eat tapas (small appetizer portions of food) you spend lots of money and you go away hungry. And so Tia Pol, the fairly new tapas bar on 10th avenue–part of the 10th ave. restaurant boom–didn’t seem like an obvious choice for dinner with Lisa. But last night she was feeling free-spirited and she said, “I can eat anything, really” and I said, “Ok, let’s go to Tia Pol.”

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Amanda Hesser wrote about Tia Pol a few weeks ago in The New York Times Magazine section. (I can’t find the article online so I can’t link to it.) She basically praised Tia Pol for its similarity to the tapas bars you’d find in Spain. I’ve never eaten tapas in Spain, so I can’t comment on that, but Lisa and I were very excited to try something new and exotic.

And new and exotic is what we had. Upon arrival, they sat as at a table in the back—a two-top with stools, like the kind you’d see at a bar. Which makes sense because this is a tapas bar. The waitress helped us steer through the menu. She raved over the blistered green peppers and so we ordered those. And soon Lisa was raving too.

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After a few peppers Lisa gushed, “Oh my God—I never want to stop eating these.”

They were really addictive. Not spicy, as you might expect. Just sweet and salty and crunchy and chewy and wet. These peppers were already the highlight of the meal!

Me being a meat eater, I wanted to try some of their signature meat dishes. The waitress recommended chorizo and bittersweet chocolate on toast. I know, I know–that sounds gross. Sausage and chocolate? Well here it is, with some saffron threads on top:

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So this wasn’t gross in anyway, but it wasn’t a sublime revelation either. It tasted like what you’d expect chocolate and chorizo to taste like. My complaint is that everything was a down note: the chorizo had no heat and so it was like eating leathery meat and dark bitter chocolate. Sort of like a wrestling match between an old man and a cat with no legs. Or something.

Lisa had this potato and onion omelet that came with a side of what we assumed was aioli. (Sorry this one’s blurry.)

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The omelet wasn’t outrageously special, but Lisa was glad she had ordered it. “Otherwise,” she said, “I wouldn’t have been full.” And if you remember: one of Lisa’s issues with tapas is that they don’t get her full.

My other meat dish was lamb:

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And this was perfectly succulent and juicy and flavorful. Plus the bread, as you can see, caught all the drippings and made for a nice post-lamb afterthought.

More bread came with Lisa’s bread tomato dish. I forget what it’s called. But it’s two slices of bread, drizzled with olive oil and rubbed with tomato and served with three dips: olive tapenade, fava bean spread, and roasted red peppers.

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This was enjoyable but not transcendent. And I think that describes our overall experience: everything was fine and pleasant, but we weren’t blown away. Even the dessert didn’t knock us off our socks:

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That’s an almond tart thingie with dulce de leche and chocolate ice cream. It was very nice but small for what it cost and not particularly mind-boggling.

On the walk home, Lisa said she was really happy with our dinner in terms of food consumed–”That was the perfect amount of food,” she said–but felt it cost way more than it was worth. I was less troubled by the pricetag (and it was about $30 each with drinks) and I was glad to have tried weird things like chocolate and sausage and blasted green peppers. And though, peppers aside, nothing really blew me away, I’d be more than happy to give it another chance.

And that’s how we felt about Tia Pol.

Categories: Chelsea, Manhattan, New York, Restaurant Reviews

  • Sebastian Dickhaut

    Dear Adam,

    as I am not able to find the contact button on your magic page, I am using the comment button to contact you. Sorry to the other readers, but maybe they can help too. If you think my English is strange, that’s ok, because am living in Bavaria (so my German is strange too).

    Since several months I am a frequent reader and big fan of your page. I especially like your recipe-tests because writing cookbooks is my main job. But I am following your restaurant-tests with nearly the same fun (very strange english, I suppose), although it has been theoretical until now.

    But this will change: I am staying next monday until wednesday in Chelsea. And it is my first time in New York, even in the USA. And I have decided to make NO plans, just swimming aorund in your city for two days. But: I need some islands to recreate. So: Is there any restaurant, cafe, deli I should never never miss, otherwise I would not have been in New York?

    A huge question, I know, especially because you don’t know anything about my preferences. Ok: I like comfort food, I like gourmet food, I like street food, I like strange food. I don’t like elegant food or playing around with food. I don’t like the Vogue-Places. I like surprises, especially when found in tiny, private places. I like places with fun an warm.

    And most important: I love to lunch, I have even started a campaign to save the long lunch in the european style (but of course I don’t want to eat european food in NY)

    In Sydney it would be a beach bar or to a chic glass house in the harbour with perfect view. In Tokio it is noodle soup at the fish market or holy food in a kaiseki-temple. In vienna it is a dark & rotten Kaffeehaus or a wine palace, in Munich a beergarden or the neighbourhood cafe with the japanese baker.

    Even a street, a region to stroll around would be enough, a link to your page too. Just a place to satart swimming. Maybe you can help me just saying what comes in your mind first. May be you’d say: What am I to help this guy? That’s fine too, because I am sure, I will find every minute something extraordinary in your city an I know that it is work enough to fill this page. But if a hint would have the touch of Adam … Of course I don’t want that for free, a cookbook donation would be fair enough – if you accept one of mine, some have been published in the USA too, i. e. Basic Cooking.

    Ok, you shouldnt waste your time by reading too long comments.

    Thanks & bye

    Sebastian

  • mo

    mm.. tortilla de patata, want to try!

  • http://www.ideasalon.org/ Wes Meltzer

    When I was in New York (March through June), I ate at Tia Pol and enjoyed it quite a lot. Your impressions of it are correct.

    I don’t know if transcendence is the point, though. The best Spanish tapas are mostly non-transcendental anyway, and Tia Pol is quite faithful by American tapas-bar standards: Everything has a formula, and in the case of the staple tapas, they just don’t vary much.

    My friends and I stuck to the most conventional tapas for most of the items, and we were quite happy. For instance, the cheese plate was delicious, and the patatas bravas (very hot, crispy-fried potatoes with paprika) were to die for. We had marvelous almejas a la marinera, and delicious lamb. Plus the tortilla.

    You hit some of those high points, too. For instance, you had the tortilla (Lisa’s omelette), and the pan con tomate/pa amb tomaquet (the bread with tomato).

    I’m glad to hear you enjoyed Tia Pol — it feels nice to know that someone else enjoyed a restaurant you enjoy. And not just because, you know, their wine selection is nice and relatively reasonably priced.

  • http://www.holdtheraisins.blogspot.com/ MeBeth

    But the chickpeas – did you have the fried chickpeas? They are irresistable – much like the Red Cat tempura green beans (almost).

  • zeep

    “Sort of like a wrestling match between an old man and a cat with no legs”

    that’s beautiful AG… *snif*

  • http://remarkablepalate.blogspot.com Chef Mark

    As Wes pointed out, the Potato dish is called Tortilla Espanola, ansd it is the basic, standard fare in every tapas bar. It’s meant to be exactly what you experienced, simple and filling. (Remember, you’re drinking at the same time, and you have to have something in your tummy to counteract the affects of all that great Rioja!). The lamb skewers are called Pinchitos Morunos, and are also frequently done with pork.

  • http://www.ibergour.com Jose Sánchez

    Tortilla española is actually a very simple treat: you chop potatoes in small dice, you fry them as you would do for regular french fries, then you cover them up with beaten eggs & salt and let that rest for a while. After that you heat up a little olive oil in a pan, pour all that inside, and cook. That is 4 ingredients: potatoes, eggs, salt, olive oil!! Some people in Spain would add onion to that. Tapas leverage great taste with simplicity. For instance, the ultimate spanish delicacy, spanish “pata negra” ham is consumed as-is, just the jamon slices by themselves.