Tavernita's Chef Ryan Poli Has The Ticket To Spanish Cuisine, Part 1

Categories: Chef Interviews
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Mercadito Hospitality Group
Chef Ryan Poli and the Mercadito Group testing tapas in Spain.
Ever wondered what it's like backstage in the world of restaurant making? How do they come up with that long list of menu items, select the ingredients...where do the ideas come from?
Although we are in a holding pattern until they open later this year, Mercadito's newest restaurant concept, Tavernita, is poised to become a tasty addition to the South Beach scene. We asked for an inside glimpse of Tavernita in the making and were rewarded with tales of eating in Spain.

Executive Chef Ryan Poli went to the source when it came time to develop his menu. A group trip provided all the food fodder required to gain insight, with everyone from the Mercadito team (including the Sandoval brothers -- Alfredo, Felipe and Patricio -- and managing partner Larry Silver) forced to eat tapas all the live long day. Tough job.

Chef Poli filled us in on what's happening in Spanish cuisine right now, and where he had his most memorable meals. Turns out that Tickets really is the hardest table to get in town (that's Barcelona, folks).

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Mercadito Hospitality Group
One the highlights from Poli's trip - Tapas in La Latina neighborhood of Madrid.
Where in Spain did you visit? Which city did you find the most influential?

We visited Madrid, Barcelona and San Sebastian. San Sebastian was the most influential for the Barcito concept, which is the corner pintxo and cocktail bar.

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Mercadito Hospitality Group
What do you see as the main food trend happening in Spanish cuisine right now?

They are moving away from molecular gastronomy and going into a more casual creative restaurants. They are using a lot of south American products (like we said before) and as always in Spain there is still an emphasis on style.<

How did the trip to Spain help you formulate the menu concept for Tavernita?

Our concept is going to be influenced by Spain, the Mediterranean, and South America. In Spain, it was really great to see Spanish chefs using different types of chiles, Peruvian ingredients, and Mexican ingredients. It was inspiring to see some of the great chefs of Spain going outside of their borders and sourcing their products the same way we are going to be doing at Tavernita.

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Mercadito Hospitality Group
The entrance to the Adrià brothers infamous restaurant in Barcelona, Tickets.
What were your favorite restaurants from the trip?

Three People Food and Music, Tickets, and pretty much all the restaurants in the Boqueria (Barcelona) and Casa Lucas (Madrid).

Tell us about your dinner at Tickets!

The restaurant entrance looked like an old time theater combined a Carnival or Cirque de Soleil. Albert himself emerged from the back - we chatted about my time in Spain, as well as Tavernita, and he asked what time our reservation at Tickets was for. I was jokingly telling him about how we couldn't get in. He apologized and said things have been crazy with the opening, and booked solid for 3 months straight.

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Mercadito Hospitality Group
Chef Albert Adrià is taking orders.
Not ten minuets passed when Chef emerged again and said, "I have a table for you at Tickets, you can sit down when ever you like, it would be our pleasure to have you." It took me a few seconds to make the translation in my head, and ran it back a few times to make sure I understood correctly. One of the greatest chefs in the world had just invited us to dinner.

Can you give us a preview of what will be on the menu at Tavernita South Beach?

It will be seafood and vegetable driven with my creativity and style. We're still working on it!

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Mercadito Hospitality Group
A taste of Tickets, quail egg covered in caviar.
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Mercadito Hospitality Group
Spanish lobster done a la Adrià.

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