Spain has long been a pioneer when it comes to molecular gastronomy. Despite the closure of elBulli several years ago, Catalonia is full of restaurants that have taken what Ferran Adrià did masterfully for decades and brought it to a wider audience. Across the ocean in the United States, restaurants have been showcasing similar techniques with great success. In NYC however, I have not seen this type of cuisine mixed in with Spanish food. Until now.
At Nai Tapas bar, which has been open for about five years, Chef Ruben Rodriguez has been serving up classic Spanish tapas from recipes from his mother and grandmother. More recently, Chef Rodriguez has steered the restaurant toward using a mix of classic and modern dishes. Dishes like fresh oysters topped with lemon air, showcase both the classic raw mollusk along with a modern molecular twist — delicious lemon air that is heavenly.
Nai intends to expand to the second floor of the east village location with more seating and an open kitchen that will feature a tasting menu style seating of the modern Spanish delights that have joined forces with the traditional dishes like garlic shrimp. As far as I can tell, this would be the first of its kind in NYC.
Other highlights from the night include the Tostada de Lubina, which was a chilean sea bass wrapped in toast, topped with serrano ham wrapped asparagus.
In addition to the great variety of food styles and tastes, the wine list is also well designed, giving a wide range of options. There are also pitchers of sangria, because what would a Spanish tapas restaurant be without one of those.
The chocolate stuffed churro was a perfect end to the meal. I would highly recommend checking out Nai for some classics done right and for some other dishes that showcase familiar ingredients in new ways.