Ryan Poli, the chef/partner at the upcoming Tavernita (151 W. Erie St.; no phone yet), traveled to Spain with Tavernita’s partners to collect ideas for the restaurant. In Poli’s words, here’s how it went.
We [visited] the Market of San Miguel. You can order shrimp by the kilo or a handful of clams, and they just serve it to you. Iberico hams. Paella. A whole bunch of restaurants all under one roof. [We went to the] La Latina neighborhood. It’s famous for its tapas bars. You can walk out of the door of one and walk into the door of another one. We saw great design aspects for Tavernita that we really liked, foodwise. It was a little refresher from the time that I lived there [in 2003 and 2004]. Dishes with potatoes and eggs. White asparagus was in season, and we ate our weight in white asparagus. . . . [We saw] what a real patatas bravas is, [to inform] what our interpretation is going to be—if we want to do an interpretation.
This was the highlight of the trip for everybody. Barcelona is going through this thing of gastrobars. Not pubs, gastrobars. We went to Three People Food and Music. Downstairs there is a little bar, and you go upstairs to the restaurant. It’s small. Probably only 45 seats, but amazing, amazing food. Then we went to Albert Adrià’s new place: Tickets. He is [the El Bulli chef] Ferran’s brother. It’s incredible. 41 Degrees: That’s the cocktail bar, and it’s right next door to Tickets. At the cocktail bar, you order little bites, things that are kind of the best dishes of El Bulli. And then Tickets—the concept is that when you go to the restaurant, you are buying a ticket for the evening. There’s so much going on in the restaurant. It’s like going to a circus or a show. We didn’t have a reservation. They’re impossible to get. When we got to 41, Albert was there. He got us into Tickets and created a whole menu for us. The seafood was awesome. We had razor clams. We had oysters with different garnishes. We had scallops. Incredible. And it was done with an El Bulli kind of twist. A little bit of air here, a little bit of accent there. Creative thinking. Creative use of seafood. We got a lot of ideas for the raw bar we are going to have inside Tavernita.
I don’t think I want to see another pintxos for a long time. Barcito, [the bar] attached to Tavernita, will have a pintxo menu. We are going to count toothpicks [to keep track of the bill] and try to keep the style of San Sebastián as much as we can: Keep the chef behind the bar, and there will be the glass case with the pintxos in them, and you can just say, “I want one of those and one of those.”
There was a huge Mexican influence in Spain that I was very surprised about. We had a mole at one place; we had chipotle mixed in with steak tartare at another place. It was really funny to see that a lot of chefs have gone back to running casual restaurants, moving away from molecular gastronomy.