But enough with the name dropping. What matters is what they're doing in Mineola: serving up an intriguing repertoire of global small plates.
One dinner kicks off with crisp roasted potatoes a la brava in a piquant red chili aioli. Soft, steamed Asian buns enfold a seductive filling of pork belly, hoisin sauce, cilantro and pickled daikon. So pretty, a trio of potato timbales, one with octopus, another with shrimp and a third with lump crabmeat.
Cheap thrills: delectably crisp empanadas, one filled with truffled mushrooms and cheese, the other holding the equivalent of a Cuban sandwich filling, each less than $3. A duo of sausages (merguez and chorizo) over onion escabèche and cannellini beans works for me.
Hooray for dark (not white) meat chicken that's marinated, skewered and grilled -- moist and hauntingly smoky. A salmon and tuna tartare infused with spicy passion fruit aioli tastes both Asian and tropical and, curiously, goes well with the Pringles potato chips that surround it. Crisp-tender calamari (served with that same aioli) is irresistible.
Also very good: a dinner entree of braised short ribs and wild mushroom ragu over pappardelle. And a rock shrimp tempura wrap at lunch.
A luxurious version of flan makes for a happy ending.
A meatball sandwich on thick, dry Italian bread is overheated, dense, dull. As an entree, seafood paella is relatively small and unspectacular. I'm not a fan of the "drunken" crab cakes, fried skewered ovals with a spicy piña colada "shooter" dip. Mac 'n' cheese is short on the mac, which is cooked to near mush. And a strawberry and avocado mousse "shooter" is plain weird. And warm.
Order some wine or sangria, and let the party begin.
ESSENTIALS Lunch, Monday to Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.; happy hour, 4 to 6 p.m.; dinner, Monday to Thursday, 5 to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 5 to 11 p.m., closed Sunday. Accepts major credit cards. Not wheelchair accessible.