Dani Garcia earned his first Michelin star in 2000 while cooking at Tragabuches in Ronda, Spain. In 2005, he opened Calima in his native city of Marbella and won Best Chef of the Year in Spain that year. Two months ago, two years shy of his 40th birthday, Garcia introduced New Yorkers to his modern Spanish fare at Manzanilla (also a variety of sherry) on East 26th Street.
Wylie Dufresne, New York's godfather of modern cuisine, was sitting at Manzanilla's bar on a night Pete Wells visited. "Apart from some terrific, how-did-he-do-it desserts," Wells writes in his review of the restaurant today, "[Manzanilla] does not show off the kinds of techniques that might intrigue Mr. Dufresne," who has dazzled New York for ten years with WD-50, and now does so at his newly opened Second Avenue atelier Alder.
"At its best, which is about half the time, Manzanilla offers some very welcome takes on Spanish tradition," writes Wells. The critic cites six reasons for "taking a seat at the bar, or a table." They are: tortillita gaditana, cuttlefish croquettes, tomato tartare, black rice and wild mushroom and vegetable rice (both bomba rice-based entrees), and the Iberico pork, which Wells explains is "given a Japanese marinade of sake, mirin and miso."
"All of these are exceptional additions to the growing catalog of great Spanish tastes in New York," the critic says. "But Manzanilla had nearly as many dishes that were not in the same league." Wells gives the newcomer one star. [NYTimes]