As many of you know, I lived in Spain during my junior year of college. It was a blast. I caught onto the Spanish way of life very quickly and as a result have many Spain-isms. For example:
1. I hum a low “mmm” when agreeing with someone, instead of just saying “ok”.
2. I don’t think that “jajaja” is a typo for “hahaha”. It’s laughter. En español.
3. At 3pm, I get tired. Like. Clockwork.
4. I crave Spanish food. All the time. What can I say? You can take the girl out of Spain, but you just can’t take the Spain out the girl.
Luckily, I live in the culinary capital of the world. In the last year, it’s become my mission to find a good Spanish restaurant in the city. I’ve found a number of good places (including a traditional restaurant called La Nacional), but my favorite by far is Nai Tapas, formerly known as Xunta.
Since I happened upon the East Village hotspot while walking down First Avenue in March, I’ve made it my business to get there as often as I can, which is about once every other month. There is never a bad night to go to Nai. Thursday and Saturday nights draw the biggest crowds due to their free (amazing) flamenco shows and all the other nights serve as excellent opportunities for a fun date or a relaxing after-work happy hour.
One of my favorite things about Nai is its’ ambience. The bartenders and waitstaff are attentive and charming (I go so often, I know a few by name now!) and the restaurant is very simple, dim and understated, with colored lights hanging above the bar, an outdoor mini-patio, high tables for dining in the front (muy Español) and regular seating in the back, where a small wooden piece serves as the flamenco stage.
Most of the dishes at Nai come in two sizes: tapas (appetizers) and raciones (larger portions). This allows you to go out with a group of friends and create a custom meal for everyone to share. My favorites include their tortilla española (potato omlette), patatas aioli (fried potatoes with garlic sauce) and shrimp ajillo (garlic shrimp). Other delights include their tablas de queso (cheese plates) and pinchos morunos (pork skewers).
In addition to Nai’s fabulous food and decor are their drinks. My friends and I have fun testing out new sangria flavors, which include Blueberry Pomegranate Champagne and Tropical, a delicious sparkly pink beverage. You can order their sangria by the glass, 1/2 pitcher or full pitcher, which works well if you’re in the mood to sample different drinks.
If you want to see the flamenco dancing, which begins at 8:30pm on both Thursday and Saturday, I suggest arriving by 7:30pm, eating dinner leisurely (you can always order more food!) and then relaxing while you watch the show and sip some wine. If you’d prefer a quieter evening, try visiting on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday.
Nai Tapas is located on 174 1st Ave, between East 10th and 11th Streets.
Stay tuned for another Spain-related post, when my Granada host family’s daughter comes to visit us for Thanksgiving!