First Impressions: Tablao

Tablao mirrorsBack in January, at the meeting of the Community Board 1 Tribeca Committee, it was announced that the Flor de Sol owners were handing over the space to general manager Frank Castro (whose father was the chef). Castro told the committee that not much would be changing, although the restaurant would be closing for a bit for kitchen renovations.

Tablao opened a couple of weeks ago, the name coming from a Spanish word for a place where flamenco is performed. As you can see, a whole lot changed beyond the kitchen. Tablao is among the most designed restaurants in the area—from the wall of mirrors to the colored LEDs to the oil paintings to the lizard wallpaper (which, in a trompe l’oeil effect, appears to be bedazzled with rhinestones but is actually 2-D). When I first went for a drink, the LEDs under the bar were changing color so fast that I felt like my lower half was submerged in a rainbow. “There’s a party in my lap,” I said to the bartender before realizing how that sounded. On my way out, I grabbed Tablao’s business card, which has an email address for Castro. I had already tried stopping by, hoping to do a New Kid on the Block post, and I thought maybe if I emailed I’d have better luck.

A week later, having not heard back, I told Adam we’d be having dinner at Tablao or Bisutoro, the Tribeca Canvas do-over, and since the latter had only been open for a couple of days, he chose Tablao.

“You have to admit,” I said when we were seated near the window, “that this place has a style. All this maximalism may not be in fashion, but it sure has personality. They didn’t play it safe. And it looks better than Flor de Sol did.”

“I liked Flor de Sol,” he replied. I raised at least one eyebrow: Adam hadn’t eaten at Flor de Sol in 10 years, perhaps longer.

The waiter came over, and as we ordered a glass of wine, he winked at me. I didn’t take it personally; I got the impression he was just a winker. Adam and I investigated the menu (see below), choosing a bunch of tapas: shrimp with garlic, the cheese platter, jamón serrano croquettes, spinach-and-mushroom empanadillas, and crostini with goat cheese and figs.

Maybe it was the Gipsy Kings playing loudly on the stereo, or maybe the chef had the night off, or maybe we just couldn’t help comparing everything to Azafrán, the Spanish restaurant that used to be on Warren. But most of the food was unmemorable at best, often tasting as if it has been prepared in advance and stored in the fridge. “Pretend you’re on a plane,” I said, trying to come up with a context that would reposition the meal.

“If I were on a plane, this might be nice,” Adam said.

The staff was sweet, and my understanding is that the lounge downstairs will have room for 45 people and host flamenco nights and other events. Upstairs, the TVs above the bar will show soccer matches now and then, and at happy hour (till 7 p.m., I believe), they list a good-value menu of wines, sangria, and tapas.

Tablao is at 361 Greenwich (between Franklin and Harrison), 212-334-4043;

Tablao facadeTablao interior signTablao roomTablao cornerTablao restroom nookTablao cheeseTablao empanadasTablao shrimpTablao croquettesTablao menu tapasTablao menu tapas2Tablao menu tapas montaditos ensaladasTablao menu entreesRecent New Kid on the Block/First Impressions articles:
The Little Gym
Stillfried Wien
Church Publick
American Cut
Front Art Space
Stitched Tribeca
Reade Street Prep

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  1. Erik, thank you for this. One of the most amusing reviews you have ever posted. Reminds me of the classic Bruni Ninja review.

  2. Agree with Andrea. This was one of my favorite reviews thus far.

  3. We went last Friday night…it could end up being the safe, tasty place that one can rely on in the neighbourhood. Loved the anti-minimalist style also, lots to look at. Wish them all the best. (the music selection was good, just turn the music down one notch, just a little.)

    And yes, an amusing review by Erik.

  4. I’m glad you all found it amusing (truly!) but I do hope no one thinks I was just having fun at Tablao’s expense. I wanted to like the restaurant, and I hope it finds its footing.

  5. Ninja is still going strong, 8 years post the infamous Bruni review. Your review may be Tablao’s lifesaver!

  6. Love the review- a party on your lap set things up nicely!

    I had high hopes for this space(which is gorgeous IMO), however, Spanish tapas (or greek, Italian, or North African for that matter) should never be this pricey! Even the entrees are in the upper strata of pricing for Tribeca. The allure of tapas and flamenco is the accessibility for everyone. Flamenco is performed by the Romani gypsies- a group not know for its affluence!

    If they bring their price points down, they can rely upon volume and watch tgeir business grow. I am cheering for this place, but the veracity of tapas and flamenco is called into question at the sight of the pricing. Went by last night at 6pm to try it out and it appeared to be closed, or perhaps they were having an event (for which there was no signage saying so).

    Excellent review!

  7. @Zaru: I’m pretty sure Tablao is closed Sundays

  8. I was there on Saturday night and really enjoyed it. The restaurant was about 90% capacity. I found it to be a good value, as at least the portions are enough to share, which is not the case with most other tapas bars in NYC that charge similar prices.

    The service was friendly, but slow,which I am sure will improve as they get their footing.

  9. @Bettina- that’s good to know,Erik’s pics actually underscore generous portions for tapas. I just noticed them (I’ve been on a Nyquil diet for several days, mulligan please)