Andanada has a lot going for it. Its location – near Lincoln Center, where there are never enough good dining choices at reasonable prices. Its two-star Michelin rated Chef, Manuel Berganza, who also worked at three-star Michelin rated Alinea in Chicago. Its unique wine list, drawn from the Tobelos winery, in the heart of Haro, La Rioja, owned by the father of Alvaro Reinoso, a partner in Andanada. A noise level geared to adults, which is to say, not too noisy even when crowded. And a wonderful Spanish menu built for Tapas grazing or serious dining, depending on your mood and timing.
The six-month-old restaurant is sleek, bright and inviting – divided into a bar/tapas section, the main dining area and a garden area that can be cordoned off for private parties. Andanada means the highest and liveliest section of a bullfighting arena, and wall murals carry out that theme.
At the suggestion of our server, Alexias, we ordered a glass of Rioja ($12) that turned out to be amazing – smooth, light and a perfect accompaniment to dinner. Then, courtesy of the house, we sampled a succession of signature dishes that made us eager to return.
It should be noted at the outset that the beautiful serving dishes, silverware and, above all, food presentation, ranged from beautiful to exquisite, beginning with the bread plate and ending with dessert.
For me, a meal of Tapas with a glass of wine is an ideal dinner. The beauty of a Tapas menu is that you can match your choices to your mood, appetite and pocketbook. My dining companion and I agreed on a number of clear winners that we’d happily return to again.
Number one was the beef and pork meatballs dipped in aioli mayo: a sinfully rich taste treat. The meatballs are addictive.
Next came the Octopus, boiled with pimento, giving it a smoky taste, bathed in a mashed potato puree so delicate, it could have doubled as a béchamel.
Most imaginative and utterly gorgeous was the bowl of mini potatoes with garlic mayo nestled in an “earth” of black olives. The snap of surprise came with what I can only describe as black-olive “crumbs” that conveyed the essence of olives (not an easy trick), and elevated a simple dish to something altogether memorable.
I also adored the roasted eggplant with hazelnuts. Again, the dish was beautifully presented and deliciously smoky, although for the price, the portion was a bit on the small side. And since I am an artichoke nut, I also enjoyed the chef’s understated take on artichokes draped in grated Manchego cheese. Simple and satisfying.
Oddly enough, the two biggest disappointments were among the most expensive Tapas: Sauteed shrimp and Scallop Tartare. The sautéed shrimp lacked any hint of garlic. When I voiced my disappointment, I was told that Americans don’t like overtly garlicky food. Here, I think, the restaurant is making a mistake. One goes to a Spanish restaurant to get authentically spiced dishes. Perhaps, if one asks for extra garlic, they will do the honors. Similarly, the scallops, naturally sweet, came across as bland, perhaps overpowered by the Citronelle sauce, a mix of orange, lime and lemon. Though the plating was exquisite, the dish wasn’t.
Stuffed as we were, we miraculously revived when the desserts arrived. The goat cheesecake bore no resemblance to its name and was nothing short of fabulous – melting ovals of goat cream in a lemony sauce with what tasted like almond crumbs: an amazingly delicate and refined show-stopper. By contrast, the chocolate ovals — topped with slivers of fresh mint — were dense and divine.
All in all, Andanada is a wonderful addition to the neighborhood, and I can’t think of a more perfect pre-theatre or post-theatre place to drop in, meet friends and enjoy everything from a glass of wine to a full meal. My advice would be to head first for the Tapas and Desserts though, in fairness, there are a host of dishes, including more Tapas, Main Courses and Paellas, that I haven’t tried. A plate of thinly sliced Jamon Iberico at the table next to ours looked wonderful, for example, and the couple – who live in the neighborhood and visit the restaurant often – heartily endorsed it.
There are also special Pre-Theater, Lunch and Brunch Menus.
I look forward to returning to Andanada, with friends, to continue sampling from the full menu. Check it out the next time you are in the area.
Photos by Eleanor Foa Dienstag
141 West 69th Street
Lunch hours are from 11.30 p.m.-2.30.p.m.
Dinner hours are from 5 p.m.-11 p.m.
Brunch hours are from 11.30 a.m.-3 p.m.