This is for a series of posts related to Iron Chef Jose Garces including:
Amada, Distrito, Rosa Blanca, Bar Volver, Buena Onda, The Blue Anchor, PHS Pop Up Garden, JG Domestic, Tinto , Tinto , Tinto [Brunch], Village Whiskey, and The Olde Bar.
Regular readers know that the GF and I are big fans of Iron Chef Jose Garces' restaurants. And one of our favorites is Tinto - his ode to Spanish tapas. It's a beautifully intimate space, especially by the open kitchen in the back.
So for the GF's bday earlier this year, I didn't hesitate to take her back to one of her favorite spots.
White Sangria [$9]
White wine, brandy, peach, lemon
The GF always get the white sangria. Not overtly saccharine with a nice brandy backbone, there's a great balance between the citrus and sweet.
Amontadillo sherry, house made rose, vermouth, aperol
I enjoyed the negroni, which was amped up with the addition of sherry and rose. I enjoyed the smoothness of this easily quaffable drink.
As always, dinner at Tinto starts off with a small amuse. Apparently moving on from the Mahon crisps we had the last time around, we enjoyed these mini breads, which were paired with a smoky pepper dip with a bit of kick.
Boucheron, Idiazabal, La Peral
The cheese plate featured boucheron, which was soft, yet semi-firm in texture with a mild tang that's prototypical of goat's milk cheese. Idiazabal was lightly smoky and is typically made from unpasteurized sheep's milk. La Peral blue was also on offer and was tempered in its funk. It had a nicely soft creaminess, with accents of sweet. Quince paste with espelette pepper, Granny Smith apple slices, and acacia honey was paired with the trio of cheeses, along with some baguette slices.
Foie Gras Torchon [$21]
Chilled foie gras, cherry, pistachio, toast
I couldn't help but order the torchon. While I could have used a warmed butter knife to effectively slice through the foie, I enjoyed the surprisingly light essence of the liver. An elegant cherry gelee served as the counterbalance, along with some lightly macerated and sliced cherries. Pistachio crumble and toast points provided texture for each rich bite.
Serrano wrapped figs
Figs were simple, but showcased the quality of the ingredients. The glistening flavors of the serrano ham came on the forefront, though admittedly, the dish ran a bit sweet for my taste as the figs and accompanying sauce could not be denied,
Dungeness Crab Croquettes [$12]
Avocado, sauce donostia, mojama
I wasn't sure whether the mojama was integrated into the nicely textured crab croquettes, but there was a great hit of salinity that may have been emblematic of the cured tuna. This was nicely balanced by the sweetness of the crab. A duo of sauces were provided as well.
Tuna Tartare [$11]
Bluefin tuna, pickled guidilla, chorizo aioli
The tuna tartare came atop a soft, buttery pastry not entirely unlike a croissant. There was plenty of unctuous bluefin, which was lightly dressed. A bit of fried chorizo and pickled guidilla pepper provided additional accents of flavor.
Berkshire pork belly, honey lacquer, shaved apples
Obviously, I always get the pork belly bites. Wonderfully crisp on the outside and gorgeously unctuous within, the hefty slabs of belly seemed lacquered in a bit of honey to provide some balance along with the crisp shaved apples. Easily a favorite of mine.
Shrimp, chorizo, grape tomato, espelette chile
Another must order in my mind are the prawns. The GF's a bit wary of head-on shrimp, but luckily for her, I'm a head-man myself and have no problem saving the rest for her. The bit of crisp chorizo provided smoky heft, while the grape tomato and lemon aioli provided a nice countervailing balance to each bite.
Diver Scallops [$18]
Uni emulsion, parsip
Our first experience at Tinto was where the GF realized she actually did like scallops. And while these were cooked to perfection, the accompanying vanilla-parsnip puree ate a little too sweet and was a little out there for us. The vanilla seemed to perfume each bite so that the innate sweetness of the bivalve was lost at times. Any of the uni emulsion remained undetected.
Crispy guanciale, black truffle, pine nut escabeche, Meyer lemon, Idiazabal
On the other hand, the brussels were on point and plentiful. The Idiazabal cheese made a reappearance and coated the savory brussels, which had nice bite. The bits of guanciale added a salty hit, with the Meyer lemon providing that acidic twang to wake up the palate. The black truffle essence kept the base savory though, with the hits of strong mustard really making the dish on the finish.
Overall, there were some misses for us in this recent Tinto experience, but you can't deny the kitchen's creativity. While the mainstay dishes like the pork belly montaditos and the prawns will keep Tinto a favorite of ours. it's the constant broadening of our palates that will keep us coming back for more.