While Ferran Adria is the undisputed king of Spanish gastronomy, noone would disagree that the crown of Andalucian kitchen creativity belongs to Dani Garcia.
The Marbellan chef has two Michelin stars for his restaurant Calima in Marbella, and used to run a chain of tapas bars called Lamoraga. He still has a Bar-Bistro called Milmilagros on Marbella's Golden Mile, but it is Dani's new venture which is set to send his star shooting into the stratosphere, taking the fame of Andalucia's wonderful fresh ingredients - and culinary creativity - along with it.
His latest bar, Manzanilla, opened in Malaga (calle Fresca) a couple of weeks ago. This autumn, in October/November, another Manzanilla will open - in Park Avenue South, New York (number 345). This is, obviously, a hugely big deal for a chef from Marbella. He's going from being a big fish in the Marbella/Malaga restaurant scene, to being the new chico on the block in the Big Apple, known for its viciously fickle eating out trends - in one week, out the next. Spanish cuisine is already in fashion, so Dani will be capitalising on this status with his characteristically original take on cocina hispano-americano.
To design his restaurant, he has chosen the team behind several W hotels, NOBU Southampton and the Boqueria restaurants in New York, which are well known for their clean, unfussy spaces with warm, neutral colours. As much as the design, he'll need a cracking PR team to get the word out there, so that 2012's Samanthas and Carries get their perfectly-toned backsides over to his new Flatiron District gaff pronto. And then spread the good news among all their well-connected pals.
One thing I love about Dani (never met him, although I've seen him at a food show - total lack of airs and graces) is his sense of humour and fun. Manzanilla has a menu designed very much with this new Stateside connection ion in mind - Dani has described it as a puente gastronomico (gastronomic bridge) between Malaga and New York. The informal, tapas-style dining will probably be well received in culturally-diverse New York. Most notably, the Marbellan chef has subverted the US's favourite meal: the hamburger.
These are some of his American themed tapas, in the section of the menu entitled "Tapas de Vuelta JFK a AGP" (AGP is the code for Malaga airport)
Taco-tapa: costilla iberica con salsa barbacoa (Spanish ribs with barbeque sauce)
Burguer-bull: hamburguesa de rabo de toro (bull's tail burger)
Hot-dog Malaga style: sausage made of pringa (slow-cooked beef or pork)with tomato caramel and macadamia nut mayonnaise
Pig Burguer: hamburguesa de cerdo iberico con bacon y mayonesa teriyaki (Iberian pork burger with bacon and teriyaki mayonnaise)
Cheesecake estilo NYC (New York-style cheesecake)
and the more Andalucian, with Dani's own stamp - called "Tapas de Ida AGP a JFK"
Gazpacho de cerezas (cherry soup)
Milhojas de foie con queso de cabra (millefeuille of foie gras with goat's cheese) - this is one of his signature dishes
Calamar Malagueño de La Caleta empanado en panko y frito en AOVE (squid from La Caleta in Malaga in Japanese breadcrumbs, fried in Extra-Virgin Olive Oil)
In addition to these quirky tapas, the New York Manzanilla will have a wider offering, with a "Spanish brasserie", which is more New York-style than a tapas bar; for those who don't get tapas, and just want a full meal.
I, for one, am dying to get down to Malaga and try out Manzanilla's transatlantic delights for myself - perhaps even meet the great man himself. Watch this space.