“If you want it, you got it. You want it, baby you got it. Just Basque a Move. Yeah!” – Its been a while but pretty sure thats how that one goes. Thats how I sing it it my head at least. But the moves I’m busting these days are more like Elaine from Seinfeld-esqe. Its more like a cross between twerking and wild prayer sways. Still much work to be done, but I’m getting better at it. There’s even a video circulating out there of me dancing, but there’s zero chance I’m sharing it here. I got bullied enough as a kid.
The moves, the sways, and subsequent 911 calls get usually wilder after a fun meal. And we had another one of those at Z-List darling Tia Pol the other day. Its the most Spanish place I know. Even if Rita Hayworth rolls in her grave every time someone orders a Gilda. She rolls twice because it comes in twos (or at least everyone orders at least two). But the fact that they even have Gilda, and things like green Gernika peppers on the menu says a lot about the place. It may not be correct to call it Basque, as NYMag does, as it covers Catalan, Galician and other regions of Spain. But its Basque enough, and perhaps one Galician Octopus, or Spanish style fried calamari (yep, best fried calamari is in Spain, not Italy) from covering the North of Spain rather nicely.
Tia Pol is tiny, and buzzy even on a lazy Saturday afternoon. It subscribes to “If its not broke, why fix it formula”, serving pretty much the same menu since 2004. The dishes to get today are still some of the same dishes we enjoyed 10 years ago. New Orleans native Mani Dawes, who spent years happy munching in Madrid, knows a thing or two about Spanish food. Madrid doesnt really have much of a cuisine, and draws much of its influences from the North, which is reflected all over the menu at Tia Pol. Here’s a rundown of what we ate
Gilda – I’ll start with a mini (pun) rant. Its hard to criticize a $2 snack but I’ll do it anyway. Gilda is a popular pintxo eaten in Basque Country consisting of a single skewer of chili pepper, olive, anchovy, and pickles, usually served on a piece of bread. The Basque people called it Gilda because its tall and skinny just like Rita Hayworth in their beloved Gilda that captured the nation back in the day. Its not something that can be easily done here because we dont have fresh Spanish anchovies easily available, and for $2 a pop you just cant expect anything remotely close to the real thing. But c’mon now. This is not a Gilda, but a skinny Danny de Vito at best. I suppose this might the best version we can come up with, but if you serve it to homesick Spaniards, they might start to weep, for the wrong reasons
Pimientos Estilo Gernika – One of the more nonsensical comments that reviewers often make – “I can probably do this at home”. Even if its true, is the point of eating out only to eat things you can not possibly make at home? You are in full control of what you order. But I love simple dishes, like the Miznon Cauliflower for example, that make you talk about possibly duplicating, and enhancing your life as a result. The Gernika peppers that come blistered and simply sprinkled with sea salt, is such a dish.
Pinchos Morunos – Lamb skewers with Moorish spices, which means Cumin, Coriander, and all the goodies. Gorgeously marinated and seasoned. Get this!
Patatas Bravas – as solid as Bravas get in NYC
Chorizo al Jerez – chorizo cooked in sherry and rosemary. Chorizo, like Olives, is one of those things I like less than I think I do. I keep ordering it, like olives, to see if maybe this is it, the grand chorizo, only to be mildly disappointed. No exception here
Txipirones en su Tinta – This is it. The dish I must get every time I’m here. Squid cooked with its ink and a small hockey puck of rice. It has that palatable inky sweetness, and the squid is never fishy. Just wish that hockey puck was a little bigger.
Gambas al Ajillo – This is another dish I get all the time. Its not going to win any shrimp in garlic awards, but its very garlicky and satisfying
Octopus Salad – Enjoyed in previous visits
205 10th Ave (22/23), Chelsea
Rating: 2 Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that.
Recommended Dishes: Patatas Bravas, Pimientos Estilo Gernika, Pinchos Morunos, Txipirones en su Tinta, Gambas al Ajillo