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.
When we first traveled to the Andalucia region of Spain eight years ago, I had never heard the word “tapas”, and was charmed by the concept of nibbling nonstop whenever we felt hungry instead of being bound by the three-meal-a-day convention. Tapas ranged from simple (fat, juicy olives) to surprising (dates wrapped in Serrano ham) to slimy (freshly-brined snails). Without exception, all used the freshest of ingredients. They were sublime. Better still, all came free, served with The Spouse’s beer and my sangria.
Andalucia: home of the tapa
Today, tapas are ubiquitous – we have tapas bars, tapas dinners, and even tapas parties. And none of them come free. Globally, these little nibbles have been elevated to a form of haute cuisine. Having had the opportunity to try tapas in their most basic form in Andalucia, their region of origin, I wanted to sample them in their more fashionable avatar. When I found myself in the Washington DC area last month, I couldn’t think of a better place to do that than at Jaleo (pronounced ha-lay-o), the tapas restaurant owned by José Andrés – the chef who introduced America (and arguably, the rest of the world) to tapas as a standalone fine dining concept. Keep reading…