Spotlight On: Tango Nuevo

By Patrick Bisson

It’s 7:30 on a cold Friday night in Kingston. The atmosphere in Tango Nuevo, however, is far from the frigid conditions outside; it’s warm, lively and inviting.
I’m immediately greeted with a smile by the lovely hostess and ushered to my table, but it instantly becomes clear that she thinks I’m waiting for someone – I’m not. Admittedly, I’m a little insecure about dining alone; I have always admired the kind of person who can sit down to enjoy a great meal unaccompanied while reading a book or doing a crossword puzzle, since this social skill falls beyond my own perceived competencies.

“Can I get you a drink while you wait?” My server asks.

Panic. Not wanting to correct her (or verify that I’m hopeless and eating alone on a Friday night with nary a book, crossword puzzle or activity to my name), I order a drink and decide to confess when it arrives. However, my server returns far too swiftly with my beer for me to have built up the necessary courage to own the fact that, yes, I was here alone – so what? – and was only able to exchange an awkward smile before she left to look after less socially-inept patrons.
As I sip my drink in isolation, I survey the area. It’s decidedly beautiful and European-feeling, brimming with both unique charm and character. The furniture and décor have obviously been given meticulous consideration – from the exposed limestone walls to the long, rustic table accented with a vintage sewing-machine base. Classic black and white movies are played continuously on a projection screen adding to Tango Nuevo’s unique ambiance, and assorted books line the shelves at the front of the restaurant for patrons looking for some escapism while they enjoy a beverage or two.
Chalkboard artists have painstakingly adorned the walls with everything a customer could want to know: wine listings, upcoming events, daily specials, local shout-outs and perhaps surprisingly – prominent thank you’s to everyone who has helped with the newly revamped Tango Nuevo’s resurgence.
Since reopening its doors in July 2013 as Tango Nuevo (Nuevo, of course, being Spanish for ‘new’) under Gokhan Cifci’s management, the restaurant appears to be thriving. In keeping with the Spanish tradition of sharing small plates of food, Tango Nuevo embraces the concept of tapas in the hopes of bringing Kingston together and encouraging conversation. Complimented with an excellent selection of local and international wines, the menu is an eclectic blend of local flavours and transnational recipes prepared with locally grown fruits and vegetables, and locally procured meats and artisan cheeses.
After coming clean about my dining situation with minimal embarrassment, I ordered the Nuevo Cesar Salad with roasted chicken and was blown away after the first bite. Served with fresh Parmesan, homemade croutons, prosciutto and a mouthwatering house-made dressing, it became clear on the onset that this was one of the best salads I had ever eaten. Whatever unease I initially felt about dining solo had quickly dissipated as I devoured my meal.
After receiving word that I had only ordered a salad (a meek attempt to counteract the fast food I had eaten all week), my server informed me that Gokhan was sending over his favorite item: pan-fried scallops.
Panic. Again. A seafood lover I am not. Can I endure the odd beer-battered fish and chip platter? Sure. But my limited palette doesn’t extend far beyond sea-fare that hasn’t been deep-fried. Not wanting to offend Gokhan in what was an extremely generous display of hospitality, I accept the inevitable and begin mentally preparing for how I will handle this turn of events.
Again, my server arrives long before I’ve had enough time to plan a course of action. Presented on a charcuterie board on bed of warm potato salad vinaigrette and accented with more prosciutto, the scallops placed before me actually look rather appealing – even to someone who doesn’t enjoy them. I reluctantly cut one into four equal pieces, and as I slowly lifted the fork to my mouth I closed my eyes and thought of England.
To my shock and amazement – this scallop was enchanting. It was sweet and savory at the same time with barely a hint of the fishiness that I had so desperately avoided all of my life. I take another bite to confirm what my taste buds are telling my brain – this is seafood, and it’s amazing – before picking up my phone to message my father.

“I just ate scallops!” I texted, beaming with pride. “Really??” He responds with profound disbelief – “And??”

Despite my inherent need to uphold a twenty-eight-year-run of maintaining that seafood for the most part is disgusting, I told him the truth – they were delicious, and the next time he visits Kingston he surely needs to try them. I quickly finished the remaining scallops and sincerely thanked Gokhan for opening my naïve eyes to a world of flavors I never even knew existed in such a capacity.
As I left the restaurant, I reflected on my experience. If a socially awkward, finicky eater like myself can have such an enlightening and enjoyable experience – imagine how the rest of the Kingston could fare? It’s obvious that the newly revamped Tango Nuevo strives to provide the best dining experience for their guests – through their diverse menu, exceptional service and inviting atmosphere – so if you haven’t already, I highly encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and to try something nuevo.