Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Deliciously Deceiving Drinks: Nai Tapas Bar

TL;DR: ★★★★★

Awesome, awesome, awesome. Hands down, the best sangria I've ever had. Amazing service, delicious food and drinks and to top it all off, live Flamenco music and dancing!

Food: ★★★★★
Ambiance: ★★★★☆
Staff: ★★★★★

Price: $$
Number of visits: 4

Mango sangria
1st Ave. & 11th St.

What's not good about this place?

I seriously have so many things to rave about when it comes to Nai Tapas Bar. Every single time I'd been here, the food, service and overall experience were seriously awesome. It's a small and modest semi-hole in the wall (I only say "semi" because what's the criteria for a place being a hole in the wall, anyway? This place looked like one to me because of the subdued sign and the fact that it's a half-underground venue), but it's always packed during the weekends, which usually is a decent indicator of how good the place is. I think every time I was here, I had to wait for at least 20 minutes, so reservations would be recommended, especially for a bigger party.

From the minute you walk in to the last second of your dining/drinking experience, you are virtually pampered by the amazing service from Nai's employees. I don't think I've ever experienced such genuinely kind and understanding service (some of the waiters aren't too bad to look at too, hehe).

Story time (skip to black text if you'd like)!
I came here for sangria on New Year's Eve, which was on a Monday last year, and on the sign outside, it said that on Mondays, pitchers of sangria were $20 (instead of the regular price — $27). Thinking that we were in luck, we ordered what we thought would be a $20 pitcher of mango sangria (amazing — more on this later). When our bill came, however, they had charged us the regular price, and when we asked about it, our server said — very apologetically — because it was a holiday, the special rate didn't apply. We were a bit disappointed, but were fine with paying the extra $7 since we still had enjoyed the drink a lot. A few minutes later, however, the waiter came by again and told us that because it was, apparently, their fault for the confusion, he'd give us the discounted price. Maybe he did it in spirit of the holiday, but we were so touched! We obviously left a very generous tip. 

The setup and interior of Nai is very simple: a few high tables and chairs in the front with the bar and seats on your right, with more average-height (?) tables and seats toward the back. On your left, there's some space for when they have live music performance, which I got to see once (Flamenco!).

The whole place has a sort of rustic, wine cellar-like vibe to it, giving off a dimly lit and slightly romantic atmosphere, but the ambiance in general is nothing spectacular. I feel like they could have spiced the venue up a little, though I'm not entirely sure how, because it seemed a little barren and boring to me.

The live music, however, is very nice. The band members are not only incredibly talented but also intensely passionate for their music and dancing, as evidenced by their movements and facial expressions, which makes you appreciate them even more. The upbeat traditional Spanish music certainly sets a good vibe for the restaurant, but only if you're a good distance away from the stage. Otherwise,
Courtesy of Meme Generator
Holy balls, my ears are ringing just thinking about the time I sat at the table right next to them. 

As for their food, I tried about four or five of their tapas, and they were mostly not only delicious but also seemingly authentic (I say "seemingly" because I still have yet to visit Spain :c). One of their most popular dishes is the shrimp in garlic oil, or gambas al ajillo, which was really great. The shrimp was cooked just right, making it succulent and juicy with a little bit of bite to it. The oil the shrimp was swimming in, which had pieces of diced garlic in it, was slightly tangy and overall flavorful — it was also great a dip for the leftover bread. 

Their chorizao salteado con cebolla, which is Spanish sausage sauteed with onions, was delicious as well, albeit a little on the salty side. I'm a big fan of chorizo, so I really enjoyed this dish, but even for me, it seemed a little bit overseasoned. The sweetness from the onions helped balance everything out, though, which made the oversalted meat more enjoyable. 

The chicken croquettes, las croquetas de pollo, were probably my least favorite and the most unimpressive. These fried pockets of dough were filled with a creamy chicken and veggie mixture, and unfortunately, the taste of cream overpowered the chicken and veggies, which seemed to be a bit lost within the gooey consistency of the cream and the dough. And since I tend not to like overly creamy, cheesy and/or milky dishes, I'd definitely opt for something else next time.

Tapas and mango sangria (it's so dark, oops)

And now, for the best part: their sangria! I've tried a decent amount of sangria, and while I have a soft spot for Dominick's in Ann Arbor, my college town, I have to hand it to Nai for the best sangria I've ever had. When it comes to alcohol, I prefer my drinks to be sweet and fruity, so Nai's sangria was perfect for me. 

Out of their pretty extensive selection, I tried their mango, tropical (both made with white wine) and blueberry pomegranate (red wine), and they were all refreshing and sweet, but not mind-numbingly sugary, with just the right ratio of juice and wine. The pieces of fruit floating on top of the glass were also good — the crisp bits of apple and the tangy orange slices gave the drink some texture — but really soaked in the wine, thus making them surprisingly strong. 

As yummy as the drink is, you gotta be careful! It's easy to constantly sip on it while enjoying the (virtually) alcohol-free taste, but then you'll be surprised at how tipsy you suddenly find yourself once you stand up.

Obviously, overall, I really love Nai Tapas Bar. It's a great place for dates, catching up with friends over delicious tapas and laid-back/chill drinking.


  1. sangria better than the sangria at dominick's?? must be good!

  2. just the fact that you've raved about the sangria means i'll be checking this place out. also eating everything.