2012-05-23 / Restaurant of the Week

METRO TAPAS

This brand new, sleek tapas bar opened just two weeks ago and is already causing a buzz thanks to its cool, modern interior, inventive small plates, and an impressive variety of craft beers and fabulous cocktails. Metro Tapas is literally tucked away, on the service road of the BQE, but its landmark neighbor, “Ultimate Fitness” health club, makes it easy to find and easy to park. Once found, you’ll find yourself going back again and again for more of Chef Lee’s tasty creations.

Managing partner Victor Salamone helped create this “modern American tapas” bar incorporating the freshest ingredients and the chef’s ingenuity. Manager Carlos welcomes everyone with a smile and the service here is friendly and very professional. Enter the cool, softly lit lounge that begs you to sit, relax and enjoy at cozy barheight tables with comfy leather stools. Handsome framed mirrors on sand-colored walls add to the ambience as does the soft, soothing lounge music. On the big screens, your favorite games are broadcast, though muted, so as to not spoil the ambience. Big blackboards on the walls tout the impressive variety of craft beers and hand-shaken cocktails, such as the “little apple”, “caprioska”, and “madrugada”.

We started with their signature cocktail called the “Metro”, a nice mix of vodka, kiwi, cucumber, lime juice and champagne that is a cool and refreshing drink for summer. The Metro melon is their take on a melon ball, made with melon liqueur. Fine wines are only $6 per glass and draught beers include Newcastle, Metro Pilsner, Coney Island Lager and Blue Point Spring Fling from Long Island. A special beer of the month is always featured and the nightly Happy Hour is served from 4pm to 7pm, when there are food and drink specials so everyone can relax, share, and enjoy, at very reasonable prices.

Personally, my favorite way to eat is to sample small plates of several different dishes and Metro Tapas has this concept down to a tea. It’s important to note that these are not traditional Spanish tapas, but new American flavors and combinations of fresh cheese, meat, seafood and vegetables artfully prepared and presented by Chef Lee, a graduate of New York’s Institute of Culinary Education. Servers Alexandra and Ishmail keep the gleaming white plates coming and going after each petit course.

All the delicious plates here cost $10 or less so you may order with wild abandon, making this a great place to come with friends and celebrate a weeknight, weekend, or special occasion. We were first presented with one of their popular bites called “papas bombas” or little “potato bombs”. These delicate, round potato croquettes are made with sharp cheddar and smoky bacon and gently fried till golden. The accompanying orange-garlic marmalade is a nice contrast to the savory flavors. Next came a decadent treat called “buratta”, a melt-inyour mouth soft cheese from Italy, similar to mozzarella, but with a buttery, creamy center, that was served with garlic-rubbed crostini, on which to spread this velvety cheese. The Parmesan flan is a light and airy creation topped with crispy prosciutto, resting on a bed of shaved asparagus that is as pretty on the eyes as it is on the palate.

Metro Tapas has fresh seafood, served in a number of ingenious ways. Cold ceviche is a mélange of fresh, citrus-marinated seafood spiced with chilis, onion, cucumber and tomato, served in a chilled martini glass. Creole shrimp was one of my favorites served with a wild mushroom ragu. These plump shrimp were tender and fresh and mixed nicely with the earthy flavors of the mushrooms. Seared Ahi tuna is encrusted in sesame seeds and seared black and blue with Japanese seaweed salad. Pan fried striped bass fillet is seasoned with sweet chili oil and mango chutney, served with Israeli couscous. My friend and I each had one of the crispy tuna tacos, served on a clever little stand, and filled with marinated tuna, avocado and cilantro lime crème.

Meat lovers will enjoy the pork roulade made with stuffed, roasted pork loin, provolone and spicy tomato sauce. Grilled hanger steak is served with crispy onions and a red wine reduction and will satisfy your craving for meat. BBQ pork spring rolls are light and crispy with a sweet and spicy Asian sauce. If you want more in your meat entrée, Metro Tapas makes a full-size Chop House burger on a potato roll with the works and French fries.

Vegetarians will find plenty to choose from including crispy artichokes with white bean salad, house made hummus with crunchy pita chips or avocado empanadas.

These little plates really satisfy your appetite while allowing you to sample many different dishes. You can come every night and try something different here, but save room for dessert. The house made tres leches cake is moist and delicious with its creamy icing. Mango mousse cake is light and sweet and the Limoncello cake bursts with fresh lemon flavor.

Relax, share, enjoy…that’s the motto at Metro Tapas and it’s so easy to do all three with their diverse menu of small plates, fabulous cocktails, craft beers and fine wines. Stop in after work or make your next weekend night a celebration of good food and friends. They’re open seven days a week from 4pm until midnight or later. Check out their Web site for more information and easy directions. See you there!

26-50 BQE West, Woodside

(Next to Ultimate Fitness) 718.638.7669 www.metrobarlounge.com

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