May 2, 2006

Diversity in small...plates.

Sunday evening I hit up La Tasca on the border of D.C.'s Chinatown, outside the Gallery Place stop with a few friends. It wasn't terribly pricy - for four people, nine tapas, a pitcher of sangria, and two desserts, it worked out to about $84 total (including tip). We chose dishes ranging from Calamares a la Andaluz (served with an excellent garlic aioli) to the Tortilla Espanola (no tilde - too lazy, but egg, potato, onion in fluffy form), and I think we sampled a good range of what their menu had to offer. We chose the white sangria as an accompaniment, and I might be odd, but I prefer my sangrias a bit more fruity and liquor-y than wine-y, so I wasn't all that impressed with La Tasca's variety. Dishes were on the dry side, but service was very good and very speedy, which might be a consideration if you're thinking about catching a game at MCI - no, I'm sorry, Verizon Center after dinner. It's also right next to a Marvelous Market outpost, which I'm unfamiliar with, but I do believe Joanie has mentioned.

Overall, the restaurant was good, but not great, which led me to consider a couple of the other small-plate restaurants in the area I've visited, and which ones really got my attention. I'm not going to extol the virtues of small plates as many foodies have of late, but the concept is pretty nice when you have a party of terribly indecisive people, or just want to hang out, and nibble as you go while you talk.

Las Tapas is in Old Town Alexandria. Tasty, a bit pricey, but if you're lucky, you can snag a table and chair there on Flamenco Night, if that's your kind of thing. I enjoyed this place a lot, but reviewers seem to note inconsistent quality of serving, which may be a risk you'll have to take.

I liked 100 King a lot in terms of atmosphere, but tiny tables covered in condiments can really cramp your ability to order a lot of different tapas to try. And the (delicious) servings really seem more planned for two than four, which can make picking out a variety for everyone to try complex, especially with small tables. Bread was especially tasty.

Jaleo has been extremely well-received in Washington dining circles. If the web page is to be believed, Tom Sietsema of the Washington Post picked it as one of his faves. However, for some reason, I was not terribly impressed with their food. I found it a bit bland when I went, during the "Squash Flower Festival." And yes, I did eat a lot of squash flower items. Their restaurant design is pretty sweet, though it's a bit unnerving to have a Day of the Dead diorama hanging out behind your head in the bathroom...

Ethnic restaurants besides those of the Spanish variety are also getting into the small-plates craze. I know Korean super-restaurant Woo Lae Oak has begun offering them at their Tyson's Corner location, which is very strange, considering the amazing gluttony (at $45 per person) their set menu seems to involve.

Then again...small plates do seem to have become synonymous with appetizers, so perhaps it's all just re-branding anyway.

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skip said...

Jose Andres, chef/owner of Jaleo and a number of other nuevo latino DC places, is the hot item in DC, or at least he was 6 months ago. I'd be interested in getting a seat at his minibar at Cafe Atlantico. It's only $95 per person. Quite reasonable, I'll take a dozen.

Joanie said...

I've been to both La Tasca and Jaleo, and while I enjoy the food at both places, Jaleo feels classier for some reason. You should try their white sangria, it's got strawberries, mint, & cava and hits you pretty quickly.

But I hear La Tasca has all you can eat tapas during restaurant I'll definitely be back.