El Tablao: Spanish Tapas in Koramangala

El tablao

From Spain with love

Tapas, tapas everywhere – excessive, don’t you think? Seems to me that every  Tom, Vik, and Hari thinks he can plop down a minuscule amount of food on a teeny tiny plate and charge a premium for it by calling “tapas”. Was that what El Tablao, this new, supposedly Spanish restaurant in Koramangala, was going to be about?

Thankfully not. In my opinion, there are very few restaurant owners or chefs in this city who understand what tapas are supposed to be – you can count them on the fingers of one hand, even if a couple of your fingers have been amputated. To that very short list, I am happy to be able to add new kid on the block Sachin Nair of El Tablao.

El tablao interiors

Typical cantina-style decor

Sachin belongs to the rapidly increasing tribe of prodigal sons who have taken the R2I plunge. El Tablao represents his idea of an “ideal” tapas taverna. Accordingly, the restaurant is a laid out as a wide open space featuring wooden benches and chairs, with a bar and a semi-open kitchen at the far end. Decor comprises a mix of bright colorsSpanish motifs and prints, and cantina-style light fittings.

El Tablao’s tapas menu

At first glance, the menu is somewhat disconcerting – steak as a tapa? Quesadillas, nachos and fajitas? WTF? We decided to plunge ahead regardless, ordering mejillones en salsa vino blanco (mussels in white wine sauce – should read “con salsa” or “al salsa”), estofado vasco (beef stew – but isn’t “beef” vaca, not “vasco“?); castillas de cerdo (pork ribs), seleccion de embutidos curados (a platter of cold cuts) and chuletas de cordero (lamb chops). They arrived in quick succession, each in its own unfussy little tapas bowl.

El Tablao mussels

Mejillones con salsa vino blanco

The mussels (Rs. 185) were cooked to a plump juiciness, their sweet, melting softness offset by the creamy wine sauce. Red peppers and a sprinkling of fresh herbs added the finishing touch – they made the dish visually appealing, and woke the white sauce up. I have to extend kudos to the El Tablao kitchen, because getting shellfish right requires perfect timing. A few seconds too long, and you’ve got rubber instead of seafood; fail to clean them properly, and you end up with a mouthful of grit. El Tablao treats shellfish with the respect it deserves; The Spouse declared he had never tasted mussels as buttery as these. For those of you who will inevitably want to know “how many mussels to a serving?”, I’d say about a dozen medium-sized specimens – but that’s just a guesstimate.

Beef stew

El Tablao's beef stew

The beef stew (Rs. 180) was impressive too, the tender meat retaining enough “bite” to indicate that it had been braised for a long time rather than subjected to the travesty of pressure cooking (if I’m wrong and it was indeed pressure cooked, I want to know how). The succulent morsels of beef were presented in a thin soup-like sauce that begged to be mopped up with bread – which we ordered at once. If you enjoy robust flavors, this is what you should order. We have tried this dish more than once – and each time was just as good as the last.

Mixed charcuterie platter

Top to bottom: salami, Serrano ham, chorizo

The charcuterie selection (Rs. 275) comprised three slices each of spicy, fermented and cured chorizo sausages, good (but not the best) serrano ham, and a mildly garlicky salami.

By this time we had asked  the wait staff to keep the bread coming until we told them to stop, so we were able to simply dunk bread in olive oil and placed a slice of meat on top. Super yum! (We often do this at home as well, but it’s always better when someone else serves you, right?).

El Tablao pork ribs

Not Spanish, but delicious nevertheless

Of the two rib meats, I preferred the pork to the lamb – and that’s more of a tribute to the former than a comment on the latter. Although there was nothing remotely Spanish about El Tablao’s barbecued pork spare ribs (Rs.290) I enjoyed them. Kinda. Granted, the marinade probably came out of a bottle and the ribs were smothered rather than coated in sauce – still, they had a nice smoky flavor that was discernible even under the too-sweet sauce. Plus, there’s something irresistible about food that has to be torn into with your hands, especially in a fine dining setting!

El tablao lamb chops

Sedate, smoky flavors

As for the lamb chops (Rs. 280) – they were more sedate and not as in-your-face as their porcine counterparts. They had been thoroughly coated with a herb-based rub, and had a nice, smoky aroma suggestive of having being grilled over coal instead of in an oven. The lamb’s milder, more subtle flavors and (to be honest) a full stomach made it impossible for me to be impressed – more a problem with me than with the lamb. Vacuum Cleaner and The Spouse, however, had no such issues, and delighted in the perfect done-ness of the meat.

Back for more

Since that first visit, we have gone back for more. Here’s a quick summary of all we have sampled:

El tablao's paella

Perfect paella

Paella Valenciana (Rs. 320 per head, minimum two persons). Spain’s version of pulao, in its”original” Valencian form. This particular avatar featured squid, chicken, shrimp,mussels, fish, asparagus, green peas, red peppers and artichokes. The rice was properly al dente, each grain separate from the other and redolent with the saffron.

Warning: El Tablao’s paella is prepared from scratch and served piping hot, still in the pan, so you need to give them 40 minutes’ notice if you would like to try paella. Depending on how hungry you are by the time the dish arrives, a portion for two could probably stretch to accommodate three people.

El tablao bruschetta

Too much tomato

Tosta da jamon (Rs. 180) By the way – that’s pronounced “ham-on”, darling, not jamon. Like bruschetta topped with a slice of serrano ham. El Tablao gave these an interesting twist by using a very mild but richly flavored Mex-style salsa instead of chopped tomato. These little morsels show a lot of promise, but the amount of tomato used completely overwhelmed the delicate taste of the ham – an unfortunate error that El Tablao has promised to correct.

El tablao mushrooms

If you're a vegetarian - choose this.

Fricassee de setas (Rs. 83). Described on the menu as “wild mushroom fricasee“. I didn’t think the mushrooms were any more wild than the button mushrooms found in our local markets, and I always thought that a fricassee, by definition, involved meat.

That said, the mushrooms weren’t, as they are in so many restaurants, overcooked to the point of being limply resigned to their fate; the onions were soft and sweet; and the dish was fragrant with herbs. Thumbs up!

Aside: El Tablao offers eleven vegetarian tapas selections, plus salads,  a few vegetarian snacks, and vegetable paella.

El tablao avocado salad

Delightful medley of textures

Ensalada de espinacas y aguacate (Rs. 110). Spinach, cucumber and avocado salad. This, for me, plays one of the starring roles in El Tablao’s very competent repertoire.

Olive oil, buttery avocado, crunchy cukes, and tender spinach leaves speckled with crushed black pepper – a complex textural composition, achieved with simple ingredients and flavors. Highly recommended in hot weather!

El tablao chorizo sausage

Chorizo in red wine - slllurp!

Chorizo frito al vino (Rs. 230). Little chunks of chorizo sausage sauteed in red wine. This is one of those “help me, I can’t stop!” snacks. The spicy sausage marries well with the flavor of red wine, and the sour notes of the fermented meat add an interesting flavor.

If you’re imbibing wine or sangria (the only options, since El Tablao lacks a liquor license), this, to my mind, is the perfect go-with nibble. It’s something I now plan to order every time I visit El Tablao.

El Tablao battered prawns

Gambas al garbadina

Langostinos a la plancha con salsa de ajo y mantequilla (Rs. 210). Half a dozen butter-soft grilled tiger prawns lightly bathed in garlic butter.

Like I said before – they know how to handle shellfish. ‘Nuff said.

Cheese platter (Rs. 230). A fairly  good assortment of cheeses, including some local cheeses, served with crackers. I especially enjoyed the sharp green cheese. Perfect after a satisfying meal.

El tablao sangria

Nice, citrussy sangria

Sangria (Rs. 1200). Definitely give this a try.

El Tablao eschews sweet wine for something more dry, and the sangria sits – as it should – overnight, until the fruit is macerated and has released its juices into the wine. They are not stingy with the quantity of fruit, so the result is outstanding – though perhaps a wee bit more fizz would be nice.

You get a largish pitcher for the price – a good deal, methinks.

El tablao bread

Faster please!

Not perfect, but getting there

Was there anything I didn’t like about El Tablao? Well, the bread neither impresses nor arrives quickly enough. And if you order “a martini”, that’s exactly what you’ll get – Martini Bianco – the vermouth, not the cocktail. The music tends to be an endless loop of Gypsy Kings rather than good flamenco. Jaleo this is not!

Overall, though, no real complaints unless I’m being picky. And I’m never picky, am I? Olé!

El Tablao
612/1, 80 Foot Road
Koramangala 4th Block
Bangalore 560 034

Phone: +91 9902336811

17 thoughts on “El Tablao: Spanish Tapas in Koramangala

  1. Wow, didn’t even know there was such a restaurant like this in Koramangala. Need to check it out asap!

    Was hoping for something different to come up in Koramangala, given how many restaurants have opened and closed in the area.

  2. Great review Suman. Most importantly we didnt even know such a place existed – plan to go soon.
    If i can suggest & in the rare event you havent tried it yet, please check out The Fat Chef in Whitefield. Its located at the Jagriti theater and we went for dinner last Sunday. We found the food and service very good. Hope you will too.

    Cheers, Biju

    • I was not very impressed with the fat Chef even though they are really close friends of mine the food choice was very run of the mill .

  3. Hey, thanks for being so specific in terms of mentioning the food, the price and the taste. The pics are grt too. Now my mouth’s kind of watering already. A good ham and cheese was what my mouth was craving. I will def follow ur blog…very informative. Its strange that such good restaurants do not have any websites as a promotion strategy.

    • Yes, I have tried Fava, many times. Although I have only admiration for Chef Saha, and although dining at Caperberry is always a pleasure – sadly, I cannot say the same for Fava.

  4. Sangria is my favorite at El Tablao!!!! And i hv always like it here coz its citrus-y than usual. And dude, kudos to your organized and structured style of writing.. mine is more like an organized mess 😛

  5. i visited this place last weekend and its not value for money at all…. the pricing is too high…

    only one thing i can say about this place…Price is high quantity is too little…the lamb chops i order had thin layer of meat on the bones [Read only bones served]

    Service is ok…nothing gr8

    WIll never ever visit this place again…

    • Hi and thanks for reading. Tapas, by definition are supposed to be “little eats”. That said, pricing is a subjective thing, and I guess if you find it doesn’t make sense to you… then it just doesn’t!

  6. You presented a deliciously described roster of dishes to try out…Another stellar effort at crafting a high-quality review . seems worth a visit, but with strong caveat of doing so with a small group. yeah,the Sangria can be pushed under the 1k mark..then i read the above outrightly acidic post from the “foodie group”!..anyway..tc

  7. I visited El Tablao a couple of months back and was pretty disappointed. Their oil was low-grade, salad too salty, zucchini overcooked. The waiters didn’t know much about the dishes on the menu. The only thing we liked was the dessert – walnut cake – but the serving size was miniscule and they gave us large tablespoons to eat it with!

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