El Quinto Pino: Neighborhood Tapas in New York City

Restaurant Sign New York City

El Quinto Pino features bold Spanish flavors in a small space.

The owners of nearby Tia Pol launched this Chelsea tapas bar in 2007. Executive Chef Alex Raij is no longer involved with either spot. Current El Quinto Pino Executive Chef Amorette Casaus was in Spain, conducting “research,” so a chef friend from her Café Grey days, Josh Sharkey, filled in for her. Despite all the factors working against us, we still managed to have a pretty solid late night dining experience.

The space was cool, with beautiful tile work, twin blackboards, one for tapas, the other for cocktails and wines by the glass. There was an oval white marble bar with backless wood stools, wood floors, and a wood bar that ran along the mirrored walls.

On Halloween, New York Times restaurant critic Peter Meehan called El Quinto Pino’s Uni Panini ($15) the “sandwich of the year.” It was simpler than I expected, a row of vivid sea urchin roe on ficelle with Korean mustard oil and sweet butter. The urchin’s quality was no better than what you’d find at a middling L.A. sushi joint, lacking the melting mouth feel of better, larger specimens.

Tapas New York City

Berenjena con Miel ($7.50) – eggplant with honey – topped fried, honey-soaked eggplant slices with savory bonito flakes that squirmed from the heat.

Tapas New York City

Barbanzos el Rinconcello ($6) – garbanzo stew with spinach – was simple but satisfying.

Tapas New York City

Gambas al Ajillo ($9) featured six shrimp swimming in a garlicky broth. This was a traditional Spanish dish. The best part was dunking the accompanying ficelle in addictive herb-flecked broth.

Tapas New York City

We wavered about whether or not to order another dish. We asked our waitress if there was an unlisted option. Chef Sharkey prepared tuna belly on pan-fried bread with piquillo aioli. Tuna belly is a prized part of the fish, known as toro in Japan and normally reserved for sushi bars. This toro use was disappointing. The shredded fish was overcooked, to the point where natural oils got lost. Slathering it in mayo also didn’t do the belly any favors.

Overall, my friend and I decided that if we lived in the neighborhood, it was worth a return trip. He’s about to live in Chelsea, so he will return. For out of towners, there are more compelling late night options, even among tapas restaurants. Still, it was worth a try.

El Quinto Pino: Neighborhood Tapas in New York City


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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