You know when you visit a place and you become obsessed with its food? If you haven’t already been to Spain this year, there’s a new restaurant on the NYC Spanish dining scene we want you to keep in mind. This one is different from the usual casual tapas affair. How does it measure up? Here’s the review.
Casa Dani is the New York City outpost of Michelin-starred chef Dani Garcia. While the name of the restaurant translates to Dani’s House, this place isn’t your typical casual tapas joint. Instead, it’s a refined version of Spanish food, particularly Andalusian cuisine. Casa Dani, along with Ci Siamo and Zou Zou’s, is one of the restaurants that anchors the new Manhattan West complex. This brand new area has some of the top hedge funds managers in residence. That’s a leading indicator of the major shift in the center of commerce in New York City — away from Midtown.
Catering in part to sophisticated business crowd,Casa Dani is a great spot for a work-related lunch or dinner. But does it translate to a nightlife destination? The verdict is still out. We’re slowly coming out of a pandemic, and a lot of offices are operating on a transitory hybrid model. If Casa Dani can hold out, it’s a unique and welcome addition to Spanish food in NYC.
It’s nice to have a civilized place where you can hear each other over dinner. By day, the restaurant is mostly full of professionals who have returned to the office. By evening, Casa Dani is three-quarters occupied by an interesting mix of people. You’ll have everything from a bachelorette party to a business dinner to attractive couples on a date. Whatever the mix is during the evening, the crowd is primarily local.
The dining room itself is beautiful, large, airy and elegant, while still hitting a chord of chic and fun. You’re not on top of each other and it sure is nice to hear your dinner companions without having to yell at each other. There’s a nice-size bar where you can grab a bite or drinks with colleagues after work.
Chef Dani has three Michelin stars to his name, so he could combust, smoke, and flame with the best of molecular-cuisine chefs. Casa Dani, though, achieves a fine-dining experience without any of the above. Its superpower is taking traditional dishes like pan con tomate, patatas bravas, and paella, and leveling them up. Dani’s rendition of pan con tomate is a tartare with sun-dried tomatoes. In lieu of the traditional crystal bread, high in water content, Casa Dani serves it up with crisp sourdough. Paella is presented cooked over fire and presented in the massive traditional pan. It comes in artful variations, like black rice with octopus and a chicken version made with Cornish hen.
The tuna, cut into the thinnest carpaccio, comes out on a flat dish that takes up most of your table. The lobster is served in medallions alongside a lobster salad. One of the signature dishes, a branzino (sea bass), comes out in fried chunks in the shape of the original fish. A favorite was the cod fritters. As you would expect, the execution was next level.
The one item everyone should order is the tortilla espagnol (call ahead to ensure you get this coveted dish). They are made in limited quantity, and it’s an original Dani’s recipe. No, it’s not better than José Andres’ Spanish Diner. However, it is equally as well executed, as a traditional tortilla should be. The center is a little runny and it’s perfectly warm — one of the go-to comfort foods. The tortillas are pretty small, so order at least two if you have more than a couple of guests.
The service was overall fine, though not necessarily well-informed or the most passionate about the food. We know restaurants everywhere have a staff shortage, so we let it slide. A tip to all servers in restaurants: Ask your guests what they like before making recommendations. Even though, yes, it’s interesting to know what the popular items are.