I had posted some time ago asking for suggestions for my birthday dinners, which may be my last set in NYC due to a possible relocation. My best foodie friend got my birthday night (Friday) and we agreed to go to El Quinto Pino, especially after reading Andrea Strong's enthusiastic review on her blog and my love for uni.
The uni panini was definitely the highlight of what we had - the mustard really complemented the silky oceanic taste of the uni, and the bread was warm and soft on the inside and crusty on the outside. We each got one as I knew I wasn't going to want to share. Worth $15? Sure - there's a lot of uni on that sandwich.
Per Andrea Strong's review, we then had the berenjana con miel (eggplant with honey) - really interesting. I could barely tell that it was eggplant and I have to agree that the judicious use of bonito flakes lent a really interesting smoky flavor. The honey sauce was delicious. Four small bites to a portion - $7.50. Definitely worth trying!
We had the torreznos, which are Spanish-style cracklings and my, these were really good and good value at $6/portion. I've had cracklings before and if they're not rendered well, it's just a greasy mess. Not these guys, the skin part was crispy and there was a nice amount of meat on each piece. I wish they sold these in bulk so I could have them for SuperBowl Sunday :)
We were still hungry, so we followed up with an order of the garlicky shrimp (gambas con ajillo - $9) - very fresh luscious shrimp, but they should have given us more bread for the sauce, which was a bit on the thin side and fairly strong. Per the server's recommendation, we also tried the pringa, which is a sandwich (hot pressed bread) filled with braised pork shoulder and pork belly. Totally delicious and big enough to share ($7). Wish we had had room for the serrano ham sandwich, but we didn't. We had the small sweet bites - not bad, but they need to do a bit more in the dessert department like a fresh flan, or fresh fruit. We each had a cava cocktail while we were waiting.
Note that the place is TINY. Next time I'll have to come at off hours, because 8:30 is just crazy. We waited about half an hour and the server does take your name but you're at your own devices to secure a seat. We had to really fight for seats. However, the food is worth it - very creative and well-executed tapas!