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We had brocheta de langostinos — one big shrimp on a stick, attended by lumps of what I think was mackerel, the whole thing grilled, dressed in pepper vinaigrette and set over an oiled round of bread. It was my favorite plate until the stew of potatoes and chopped chorizo arrived, bubbling in an earthenware bowl, rich with peppers and onions. And then that was my favorite until the solomillo came — a simple bit of sliced beef tenderloin, cooked bloody-rare and smothered beneath a thick veil of white béchamel dosed with powerful Spanish Valdeón blue cheese. The solomillo was so addictively good it was scary — the kind of plate that's been done a million and a half times before in a hundred thousand different restaurants, but never, never quite like it was done here, and never even close to as well.

Ondo's has some issues, yes. I didn't love the slightly undercooked grains and weird brothy consistency of the arroz meloso with Spanish Idiazábal cheese (an attempt at a Spanish risotto, I'm guessing, that failed somewhere in the execution but made a nice starch when I ate it with the potatoes and chorizo). The albóndigas were delicious, but while they were meant to be simple, they seemed somehow too simple, sitting in their tomato sauce and bringing nothing more than the plain protein of their existence to the table. And the Steinbeckers might also do well to look at the pricing on their menu, because while I dearly love pork products and am willing to pay ridiculous prices for Ibérico (some of the best ham on the planet), the going rate for a small plate of it seemed high even to me. Fifteen dollars for a (very) small plate of ham, thirty for a large? That's going to knock out all but the most dedicated pork junkies.

Still, through it all, there is a consistency at Ondo's, a sense of distant horizons and love borne of strange latitudes. There is the taste of ancient dust and the feel of a canon that has been alive and growing for centuries, perfected across a million bar tops and tables, taught to those with the means and the wherewithal to go to the source. Ondo's tapas have in them the potential for true greatness, the staff and room a capacity for becoming a new destination in Cherry Creek — a bright point of independence in a neighborhood that's become crowded over the years with corporate branding and big-box names. Ondo's isn't quite there yet, but there's room for growth, for easing into excellence slowly, one omelet at a time.

Deicy Steinbecker serves up genuine Spanish tapas at Ondo's.
mark manger
Deicy Steinbecker serves up genuine Spanish tapas at Ondo's.

Location Info

Map

Ondo's Spanish Tapas Bar

250 Steele St., #100
Denver, CO 80206

Category: Restaurant > Spanish

Region: Central Denver

Details

Ondo's
Tortilla Española $5
Brocheta de langostinos $7.50
Jamón Ibérico $30/$15
Patatas bravas $6.50
Croquetas $7.50
Arroz meloso $11Solomillo $14.50
Albóndigas $10
250 Steele Street 303-975-6514 www.ondostapas.com Hours:Dinner nightly

While we'd been eating, a couple of other tables had drifted in. They were only two-tops, a couple of singles at the bar, but it was better than nothing. As we watched Curt make his way from the kitchen to their tables, handing around aperitivos, smiling and wishing them well before retreating back behind his burners, I thought to myself that maybe, once I'm gone, these few people and the ones who follow them will act as a vanguard of gastronauts, the outriders of cuisine bringing back news of Ondo's to their friends and families. I hoped that they'd all have meals as good as the one I'd just finished.

But in the meantime, Laura and I made our way out the door and back out into the cold. This time, though, our walk was much shorter. Next door, Tambien was backs-to-the-glass crowded as we pressed our way in and made for the bar, looking for one more drink — unwilling, while there were still some days and hours remaining, to let this be our last of anything.

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