I try to stay away from the touristy Little Italy neighborhood; although I have not tried any of the Italian restaurants there, most of the places I walked by screamed tourist traps. When a Spanish restaurant opened in the same neighborhood, though, I thought Tomiño Taberna Gallega could have a gem potential. Spanish restaurants have become more popular over time in the Big Apple with the likes of crowd-pleasers like Boqueria and Socarrat Paella Bar that now have several branches throughout the city, but it has still been somewhat of a challenge to find a place that really tried to stick to the authentic taste of the country I had experienced when I visited it three years ago. Tomiño, which features food based on the culinary traditions of Galicia in northwestern Spain, seems to hold a ton of promise to fill that gap. Unfortunately, on a recent visit with my wife Jun and another couple, we found a frustratingly consistent pattern of hits and misses.
The restaurant consists of a long bar at the entrance and a dining room in the back. The menu consists of mostly small plates ideal for sharing, plus a few large format dishes. Some of these dishes were quite delicious, starting with tortilla de Betanzos (named after a small town in the region apparently famous for the tortilla dish) that displayed a very delicious mix of potatoes and egg yolk in the middle. Chorizos came flambé style (using a Galician liquor called orujo) and the texture of these spicy pork sausages was remarkably robust. Other dishes were OK but could have been slightly better in one or more aspects. The empanada Gallega had rich flavor with a nice combination of texture from chicken and chorizo inside, but I wonder if the dish could’ve been even better with slightly warmer temperature. Charcoal grilled Iberian baby-back ribs had a nice smoky feel to the meats, although the seasoning was slightly off on the stronger side.
Grilled wild mushrooms along with fresh sliced grapes and goat cheese-honey mousse were also serviceable. Then there were downright horrific dishes, starting with octopus with sea salt and extra virgin olive oil that looks appetizing in display but once I picked one piece up with a toothpick and put it into my mouth, I had to fight the resistance to spit it out. Not only was the use of sea salt excessive, but the texture of the octopus just wasn’t that fresh but rather gooey. That’s not how I remember an octopus dish tasted like in Spain. The only large format dish that we had ordered was bomba rice dish with lobster and monkfish. Everyone was hoping this could be sort of like a paella dish, but the puddle of rice in bisque broth was not good at all and the quality of seafood in it didn’t help either. What a waste of money for $56. For desserts, we had a chocolate dessert on the special menu and various house made seasonal sorbets and ice creams, neither of which was particularly memorable.
Getting a reservation at Tomiño should be fairly easy. The dining space was somewhat sedated for a Saturday evening other than a large group of loud male patrons next to our table. I feel like the restaurant will provide a better experience at the bar area, which seems to look more interesting and vibrant. Another minus on sitting in the dining area: we were assessed a whopping 20% service charge for a table for four (I had to ask the server incredulously if they actually charge 20% thinking they must have thought we were a party of six) and it wasn’t like the service was impeccable enough to deserve that amount for tips. If you are inclined to check out Tomiño, just grab your seat at the bar, order one of the wines, vermouths or cocktails from the menu and get one or two small plates like tortilla and chorizos for snacks. I think the value of this restaurant as a worthy place to check out in NYC stops there, at least for the time being.
KenScale: 7.25/10 (Jun’s Score: 7.5/10)
- Creativity: 7.5/10
- Execution: 7.0/10
- Ingredients: 7.5/10
- Flavor: 7.0/10
- Texture: 7.5/10
- Value: 7.0/10
Address: 192 Grand Street, New York, NY 10013
Telephone: (212) 933-4763