Friday, July 31, 2009

Banyuls, Ginza

My friends, I am genuinely excited to inform both of you that I have found something that shatters two of my previously-held notions:
1. Spain bars have boring, ordinary food (and the food in Spain had better be better by next month, or there'll be hell to pay) and
2. The Aux Amis group tends toward the bland and overpriced, with odd service

Banyuls Ginza is the 'Catalan Bar' of the Aux Amis group, meaning, I guess, that you're supposed to feel like you're in Barcelona. Since I haven't been to Barcelona and won't go for the another, ohhhh, exactly 28 days from this dinner, but who's counting, I'm not sure if that's true or not. I CAN confirm that you can stand around the bar, or at some barrels in the doorway, or some tables outside (or if you're lucky and wait for ages in a standing position, you may inherit an actual table with stools from a departing comrade), you'll be able to drink casual wine and eat casual tapas, all of which is upright, delicious and enjoyable. But a little expensive. It's Ginza! Anyway, if you compare to something like Casa Camaron, in the Velvia building right behind, it comes across as much more relaxed and authentic. And tasty. And affordable.

I pretty much drank rose cava all night. This is Y600 a glass, and is served over the bar in small tumblers - the waitress will grab your glass and refill it from the bottle that the bartender gives her. The other wines are generally served by the waitstaff also, with the whites dispensed at great altitude from a speed pourer to make them froth a bit in the glass. Instant aeration. There are over 10 glass wines, mainly Spanish.

Foods...there's a list of about 25 tapas, all Y500 (this is why things add up - over 2+ hours, you can get through a lot of small plates). Items that I remember positively included:
- Chorizo, cooked and served with chick peas stewed in tomato sauce, excellent
- Meatballs, seemingly humble but again that tomato sauce was outstanding
- Anchovies in oil
- Sanma (Pacific Saury) pieces fried in batter, strong and fishy, but in a good way that was happy with the standing position, damp, hot air, and cold, bubbly drinks
- Fries. Really, really good fries - as thin as I like them, so the otuside is perfectly brown and crisp but the inside still has some mashed-potato core. With a red-pepper puree mayonnaise, I think.
- Shrimps boiled in garlic oil. Fresh. Plump. Juicy. Garliccy.

Service was great - mainly the one waitress who was an absolute ball of energy all night. She was bouncing from one leg to the other, pouring drinks while taking orders, running through the narrow space of the crowd, never still, always cheerful. Wow. She said that everyone except the two kinda clueless servers is actually employed full-time by the company, which kinda makes me feel good (in that 'living wage' sense).

Let's not belabor the point. This is a good way to spend the evening, or part of it, if you have the energy to stand up while eating or the time to get there before it fills up. I'm recommending it, but only in the 'casual' category, which I don't have. There's a restaurant area on the 2nd floor with seating, but the first floor is quite authentic enough, thank you very much.

Ata me!


  1. Barcelona has come to Pitman, NJ. The parents had lunch there yesterday! When you next alight in your hometown, we will go there and you can compare it to the Spanish food in Tokyo and then Barcelona, SPAIN!! He is soon to add Tapas to the menu.

  2. my fav in Frederick at the tapas place was fried asparagus standing upright in a pretty little glass with a horseradishy sauce for dipping...mmm