Haute Dining: 10 Questions for GastroArte’s Chef Jesús Núñez

Old world Spanish flavors meet modern art at GastroArte, which sits on an assuming Upper West Side block. You’ll enjoy the atmosphere—a lovely space with white walls and bold paintings—but the main attraction is the food. One look and you’ll be intrigued: Chef Jesús Núñez, a former street artists has, literally, elevated his cuisine to an art form, splashing dishes with color, textures and whimsy. This is definitely not typical food from Spain; it’s modern, experimental and provocative. Stay up front for tapas and Tempranillo or head to the dining room in the back for one of the most imaginative meals you may ever have.

Haute Living: What’s new at GastroArte?

Chef Jesús Núñez: In my restaurant, we’re always dreaming up something new and exciting. I like to think of GastroArte as a small factory where we create surprises and enable people to discover something new and unexpected each time they come to dine with us.

We are currently working with Tom Holmes (tomesholmes.com), a local artist, on a series of sculptures that we’ve incorporated into our plating style. Now our clients are eating tapas directly off of one-of-a-kind pieces of art. We are also working on a number of artist-inspired desserts (Miro, Kandinsky, Gery, Mondrian …), a snout-to-tail tasting menu that features pork in a way that few diners have experienced it before, “bling-bling” dinners that showcase only the must luxurious ingredients in an eccentric but delicious degustacion…we’re full of ideas. Now it’s just a matter of finding the time to bring all of our crazy desires to life and, more importantly, to people’s plates.

HL: What are some of your favorite dishes at your restaurant?

JN: I would say all and none of my dishes are my favorites. I feel that I’ve achieved something special with each dish on my menu, but at the same time, I try not to fall in love with any particular dish, since that could inhibit me from evolving. However, if we look at the current fall menu, I would highlight the eggplant with oysters and caviar appetizer: a dish of delicious earthy and salty flavors, and an impressive presentation.

The carrot cake with mahon cheese and asparagus is probably our clients’ favorite. This is a delicate dish and surprisingly, people are not accustomed to a salty carrot cake.

I would also point out the new version of the not-your-average egg, which you’ll have to experience for yourself to see how it’s changed.

HL: Where do you like to dine when you’re not working?

JN: At home with my girlfriend and my dogs.

HL: What’s your ideal meal?

JN: It depends on the day. If I’m very hungry, I could be happy with a large order of sushi or homemade pasta with a creamy cheese sauce. If I’m in the mood to nibble on something, I always go for jamon de bellota (acorn-fed Iberian ham) or Spanish sausage, pork, some cheese and bread with tomato. My favorite meal for any occasion, though, is fried eggs over fried potatoes and garlic mayonnaise; it’s not the healthiest dish, but it brings me back to my home in Madrid.

HL: Where do you like to dine on a special occasion?

JN: It depends on the occasion, but I’ve really enjoyed Del Posto, Morimoto, Eleven Madison Park, Dovetail and Corton.

HL: What’s your favorite New York City neighborhood and why?

JN: Up until last year I lived in the West Village, which is probably my favorite neighborhood for its narrow streets, small restaurants and cafes–the atmosphere and vibrant environment in general.

HL: What do you like to do in the city on your days off?

JN: What days off??

HL: What’s your favorite vacation destination?

JN: Cabo de Gata in Almeria Spain. This is part of a national park in the southern region of Spain, so the beaches are pristine and the water is as transparent as the Caribbean.

HL: What’s your most memorable meal?

JN: The tasting menu at Pierre Gagniere at the Lotte Hotel in Seoul, South Korea. I have a lot of respect for Pierre, and his food blew me away.

HL: What are your five favorite ingredients?

JN: Spanish extra virgin olive oil, jamon de bellota, saffron, apple and marcona almonds.

GastroArte is located at 141 W. 69th St; 646-692-8762.

Visit food + travel writer + Haute Dining columnist Tracey Ceurvels’ blog, The Busy Hedonist, for more ideas for dinner.

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