Before I jump into lunch and brunch at Spanish restaurant Niajo, check this Chinese New Year deal that popped into my inbox: “To celebrate the arrival of the Year of the Monkey, come to Niajo this Friday Feb 5th and Saturday Feb 6th, 50% off everything you eat and drink, promotional offer while stocks last.” Impressive! Get more info or reserve seats via 5208-6052 or table (at) niajo.com.
Anyway, I had lunch with owner Alex Sanchez a few weeks after meeting him both at a cooking class and a contest featuring fideua, a dish from his home province of Valencia. As we ate — see photos above — Sanchez told me that he first visited China in 1999, moved here for good in 2005, and then opened the restaurant six years ago.
On to lunch. Sanchez says he understands many people work well past noon, so his business lunch runs until 3:30 PM, Monday through Friday, including holidays. Those who arrive even later can still order a la carte as the kitchen remains open through to 11 PM.
The menu changes weekly and is rmb88 for two courses, with a dessert and/or drink at rmb22 each. Customers can pick from three starters, three mains and two desserts. Note: I returned a few weeks later with a friend and lunch was delicious and good value, with the generous slice of salmon–bottom right–perfectly cooked:
Niajo also has weekend brunch for rmb198. If you want paella–four options: seafood, vegetarian, squid ink and Valencian–you need to bring a friend as it is designed for two. You get four starters (with smoked salmon, Iberian ham and soup options), a choice of desserts, a London No 1 gin tonic, and coffee or tea.
Want more booze? Add three drinks, like Bloody Marys, Sangria or wine–for rmb68. Or get just one for rmb28, with extra coffee and juice at rmb22.
During out talk, we enjoyed Iberico ham, fresh bread and an invigorating strawberry-topped gazpacho. Then Sanchez explained the different types of Spanish rice dishes we tasted, the highlight being a juicy lobster one that paired well with Spanish white wine Angosta Blanco. (I brought a semi-sweet white wine from Ningxia that was fine on its but not good with paella. Such is life.)
The meal underscored the wealth of Spanish options we consumers have been able to enjoy in Nali Patio the past few years, whether it’s Migas, Agua, Velvet or Niajo. So much quality in such a small area. And thinking back on that paella, I’m making a mental note to soon return and try the brunch at Niajo.