Went to La Nacional (14th between 7th and 8th Aves.) with four friends for dinner last night. Does anyone know if there is a new chef? It seemed like upside-down night, with everything that used to be weak rather strong, and vice-versa. What has not changed is the pleasantness of the dining room, and the relaxed feel to the service.
The tapas, often inconsistent at best, were the strongest I've ever had there, and not just the semi-foolproof chorizo and cheese plate. The hot potatoes and croquettes were expertly prepared (and portions seemed bigger than ever). Not a world-class tortilla, but a tasty one.
The entrees were mostly disappointing, though, including the usual dependable paella. The ingredients on top of the rice was prepared more carefully than I've ever experienced at La Nacional, especially the chicken and shrimp, but the rice was gloppy and underdone; the flounder in salsa verde was soapy and wan; the only winner was the chicken in garlic sauce, with superb french fries.
Service was also the most professional I've ever seen there -- but just as friendly. Sangria was tastier than ever (although low on wine) and tapas portions were definitely larger (some, not all prices were higher) -- these were portions for a group to share, not to nibble on at the bar.
Hard to tell if this was one-off meal, but despite the couple of disappointments, this might have been the best meal I've ever had at La Nacional.