Alex Raij seems determined to turn a small corner of west Chelsea into an outpost of northern Spain. First there was the small and insanely popular tapas joint Tia Pol. Then, some three blocks away, the even smaller El Quinto Pino. Now, having parted company with the owner of those two establishments, she and husband Eder Montero have opened Txikito (chee-KEE-to), just a scant half block further west.
With a glass roll-up garage door as the front wall, barn lumber on the walls and ceiling, bright blue paint, and (amazingly comfortable) red patent leather bar stools, it’s the kind of place you want to just slide right into. Turns out that’s a good idea.
True, there’s no single item on the all-Basque menu that’s as startlingly original as the uni sandwich Raij came up with at Quinto Pino. On the other hand, the much larger selection means you can visit often without repeating yourself. Among the pintxos, as Basque canapés are called, the mini mushroom and shrimp grilled cheese sandwiches (txiki txanpi), as cunning as they are comforting, are reason enough all by themselves to stop in. The sofrito and chorizo topped with a perfectly runny quail egg (arraultza) and the earthy gratin of artichoke, Roncal, and jamón (tutera) are not far behind. There’s also a whole range of larger plates, from the comfortable (albóndigas, aka meatballs with classic shellfish sauce) to the adventurous (txarripatak, aka trotters and tripe with beef tendon, chickpeas, and chorizo pepper). And if, like me, you think gnawing meat off a bone is one of life’s great pleasures, it would be most unwise to skip the txilindron, spicy little morsels of cross-cut pork spare ribs. And don’t worry—you can order as much as you like without ever having to actually pronounce the names of the dishes.
Txikito 240 Ninth Ave. between 24th and 25th Streets, New York City ( 212-242-4730)