Second Helpings

Second Helping: Tapas de España

Hungry for a taste of true Spanish tapas, which I'd enjoyed so much on the Iberian peninsula, I hurried to Tapas de España, which recently opened in El Señor Sol, a Mexican restaurant that occupies the Victorian building that was once the Zang Brewing Company.

There's actually no distinction between the two restaurants. When I walked in for lunch, I was led to a sticky table in the spacious, colorful (if grubby) dining room and handed two menus: one for Mexican food and one for tapas. And then I was brought a basket of chips and a bowl of salsa, a pretty good hint of which cuisine is the focal point.

Still, the tapas list was enormous, with offerings ranging from albóndigas to croquetas, seafood, sausage and salads. Sticking to the classics, I ordered patatas bravas and a tortilla Española.

The dishes might have been classics in theory, but they were a disaster in execution. The potatoes were lukewarm and mushy, more boiled than fried, and served with a tomato sauce that was like thin ketchup. The tortilla Española topped slices of stale baguette with overcooked potato omelette, plated with more of that same tomato sauce. Both dishes were way underseasoned -- and more than enough to convince me not to try anything more complicated.

I paid my check and left, still hungry for the taste of Spain. That hunger later led me to the 9th Door, which I review this week. Disappointed again, I pressed on -- and finally found what I was looking for at Ondo's, the last restaurant Jason Sheehan reviewed before leaving town, and the subject of this week's Second Helping. With food this good, I can't imagine why Sheehan ever left.

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Laura Shunk was Westword's restaurant critic from 2010 to 2012; she's also been food editor at the Village Voice and a dining columnist in Beijing. Her toughest assignment had her drinking ten martinis and eating ten Caesar salads over the course of 48 hours. She still drinks martinis, but remains lukewarm on Caesar salads.
Contact: Laura Shunk