“Nacho, can we turn the lights on?”
Jose Garces was sitting in the back of Amada, his first New York restaurant, and the lighting in the space had just gone dark. The team was working to tweak the automatic lighting system a few days before opening. “The lighting is so important in a space,” Garces explained. “It sets the mood, it sets the tone. It has to be just right.”
The restaurant is the latest under Garces’ watch, an outpost of his popular Philadelphia restaurant of the same name.
“Amada is our flagship restaurant — it’s the first restaurant I opened. It’s tried, it’s tested,” Garces explained of extending the brand to the New York market. “There’s something special about the brand. It’s named after my grandma, and like Amada in Philadelphia, there’s a certain aura or energy that I already feel in this space.”
Amada opens adjacent to Brookfield Place in Battery City Park, a few steps from the mall’s stable of luxury shops as well as the Hudson River. The massive restaurant — 248 seats, including patio seating — is hoping to draw from the growing foot traffic in the area, as well as local businesses — Goldman Sachs and One World Trade Center are both a block away. AvroKO designed the dining room; it’s laid out in several sections and features warm wood and turquoise tables. There’s a crafty textile motif throughout with woven loom and tapestry details scattering through the space. “This is a pretty big departure from our Amada in Philadelphia,” Garces noted. “This is a little more elevated, a little more elegant for the market.”
The tables are each set with pincho forks, a nod towards the restaurant’s focus on serving authentic Spanish tapas. The menu is unique from the Philly location and features 72 items divided among different categories: charcuterie and cheeses, all imported from Spain, a “traditional” section, soups and salads, flatbreads, meat and fish, veggies, and paellas. The restaurant is also running a “pig program” which allows guests to special-order a half or full pig in advance of their visit. A cafe, Amidita — the nickname for Garces’ grandmother — is located next door to the restaurant and will offer coffee roasted by Garces’ father in Chicago and pastries. At night, it will turn into a wine bar.
Amada marks a homecoming for Garces, who got his start cooking at New York institutions the Rainbow Room and Four Seasons before departing to Philadelphia in 2000. “I knew that if I wanted to spread my wings a little bit, it might be better in another market,” he explained. “I said to myself, when I come back to New York, I want to come back on my own terms. I wanna have an apartment overlooking Central Park, and have a little restaurant that I could just cook in.” He’s hit that benchmark, for the most part — he’s overlooking the Hudson instead of Central Park, and the sprawling restaurant doesn’t quite qualify as “little.”
“It’s kind of like fulfilling a dream for myself,” Garces said.
200 Vesey Street, New York, NY