Monday, February 22, 2010

tapas crawl, part one: el quinto pino

I've mentioned a couple times before that hype often leads to disappointment. High expectations, my friends, are for the birds. And with all the hype that has surrounded El Quinto Pino's famed Uni Panini, I walked into the teeny tiny tapas joint on Saturday night with mixed emotions. A bipolar moment, if you will.
While I couldn't wait to finally wrap my hands around the soft, warm ficelle (petite baguette), smeared with fresh uni and a generous amount of a seriously spicy dijon mustard then lightly pressed for a few seconds, I also worried that knowing everyone and anyone in the food world had raved about this sandwich and sung its praises, would inevitably doom my experience. I walked in with expectations through the roof; seemingly unattainable.

So when I slipped off the paper that delicately wrapped this haute panini, tore off a piece, and slowly put it into my mouth, a single tear may or may not have rolled down my cheek. Now, mind you, this may or may not have been due to the heat level in the mustard which cleared my sinuses for the month of February, but really, that's insignificant. There were tears.

This one bite (and second, third, and fourth) was packed with such incredibly exotic yet approachable flavors, I almost didn't know what to do with myself. The uni melts into an oceanic butter and the kick of the mustard makes this sandwich sing the Gipsy Kings "Volaré" at the top of its lungs. For days. And sipping my Pilsner inbetween bites, flanked by my food loving friends, I was gone.

Checked out. Gone to Mallorca.

Hello, Bliss. It's been a while.

In fear of becoming one of the many people who have placed this Uni Panini on a ridiculous high pedestal, I will allow you (and Jesus Christ URGE you) to try it out for yourself. Because once it's in your mouth, you will quickly realize that this is not just an eating experience. But a total body one.

And I'll be twitching until I get my next fix.

El Quinto Pino
401 West 24th Street

FOOD: 40 (*I only had the panini, though, so take from that what you will)
LOOK: 18


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