931 Franklin Ave, Garden City 516-246-9459
Unpretentious, inexpensive, creative and unusual are the terms that best describe Plancha Tapas & Wine Bar in Garden City. Unpretentious because it’s a narrow 49-foot storefront that’s rustic and homey. Inexpensive because most of the tapas are in the $6 to $9 bracket; sprawling, abundant wood boards for sharing go for $27 and bottles of wine cost as little as $16 (the well thought out multi-page wine list here is impressive).
The tapas, which can be consumed as a whole meal or a prelude to one, range from simple—like warm olives and Marcona almonds ($5 each)—to more creative and unusual items like roasted Brussels sprouts topped with chestnut purée, shaved Piave cheese and black pepper honey ($8). A Spanish Cobb salad is also interesting and featured arugula, Spanish goat cheese, Serrano ham, avocado, an eight-minute egg and Marcona almonds ($12).
Speaking of Marcona almonds, Plancha’s co-owner Joshua Kobrin (who didn’t know I was a critic) offered me some of them and a few olives as I sat at the long bar waiting for a table (that’s not unusual, it’s a small place). The almonds were fried and enhanced with sea salt, while the warm olives were plump, meaty Sicilian imports. Those excellent ingredients and Kobrin’s generosity and concern made a positive impression that remained throughout the evening. The restaurant’s upbeat spirit and the quality and diversity of the food kept the momentum going.
Don’t pass up those bountiful sharing boards—I’d suggest the Spanish one. It’s loaded with enough goodies for a table of hearty eaters. Meat, cheese and fruit lovers will find their favorites: Silver dollar-sized spicy chorizo, slender Serrano ham slices and cured pork loin should satisfy the carnivores, while the cheeses from the Iberian Peninsula—Manchego, Cana de Cabra and Campo de Montalban—were noteworthy for their exquisite freshness. Add those olives and almonds, the sweetest little grapes, quince paste, dried cherries and apricots and slabs of rough hewn peasant bread from Cardinali Bakery (Carle Place) drizzled with olive oil and sea salt and you have a feast for four. (Take the menu’s suggestion and have a harmonious Fino Sherry to accompany the plate.)
When the tasting plate is finished, move on to the varied tapas. We ordered six, four of which were winners, thanks to the advice of a waitstaff that displayed enthusiasm, generous conviviality and detailed knowledge about every dish and every ingredient. The pork belly bocadillo (braised pork belly) came on a gutsy roll accompanied by Kimchi, limes, cilantro and sesame mayo ($8). This was the numero uno tapas choice. Close behind it was the Cabra bake, bubbly goat cheese atop roasted mushrooms, endives and charred grapes ($9); and Cebada in a velvety truffle and Madeira wine sauce with roasted mushrooms ($7). Flavor permeated both dishes with the Cabra bake generating sweet undertones. Seared foie gras with balsamic onions and caramelized bananas combined two dissimilar ingredients, yet their individual tastes registered ($16). Less successful was the Burrata dominated by fresh, creamy mozzarella that provided scant taste ($14) and a monster split marrow bone that harbored little marrow ($8).
The two tiny desserts were served in coffee cups and were mediocre. The black cherry panna cotta sounded more exciting than it tasted ($5) and the chocolate fondue with sea salt and Nutella ($5) was ordinary.
Photo by Pam Deutchman / thefphoto.com