Mon-Thu, 11:30am-2:30pm and 6pm-10:30pm; Fri, 11:30am-2:30pm and 6pm-11:30pm; Sat, 5pm-11:30pm; Sun, 5:30pm-10pm
N, R at 23rd St.; 6 at 28th St.
American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa
Manzanilla, which opened several weeks ago at the bottom of a nameless office tower on Park Avenue South, bills itself as a Spanish brasserie, complete with gourmet charcuterie boards, a high-end foie gras dish, and a Next Wave bistro-style menu. But for those of us weary professionals who’ve frittered away endless hours in nameless midtown brasseries, the setup is depressingly familiar. The big-box space off 26th Street features an anonymous hotel-style bar area in the front designed for the consumption of antically named cocktails (Puzzled Look, Simple Twist of Fate) and assorted bistro snacks (Ibérico charcuterie, tragically gummy golf-ball-size squid-ink croquettes). There’s a de rigueur open kitchen in the clamorous, beige-colored dining room, and on crowded evenings, with the thrumming backbeat soundtrack at full blast, it can be difficult to hear yourself think.
Upscale restaurants like this are sometimes rescued by the quality of the cooking, but that doesn’t happen here. My tuna tartare was served under a nice scrim of uni, but the tepid smoked-octopus appetizer we ordered one evening tasted like it had recently been removed from a slightly underheated microwave. The fact that the staff knew there was a restaurant critic in their midst (one of my guests inadvertently booked the table under my name) did not prevent the kitchen from slathering the barely edible $34 lamb shank in a tarlike glaze, or obscuring the bacalao in a dated, salty foam. That old Iberian standby suckling pig was pleasantly crispy on its exterior but overcooked in the middle, and the seared Ibérico pork presa tasted like a plate of leftover picnic ham. The most memorable of the forgettable desserts was simple rice pudding, which works best if you remove the ridiculous hairnet of spun sugar that decorates its top.
Offers several sandwiches at lunch, including a slow-braised oxtail burger for $20.Ideal Meal
Tuna tartare, suckling pig, rice pudding.