Saturday, January 23, 2010

Tapas Teatro for Restaurant Week

I went with a friend last night to Tapas Teatro. I thought they might be taking part in Baltimore Restaurant Week, and they indeed are! Not that Tapas Teatro needs any more customers, as our half hour wait for a table made painfully clear. The dimly lit restaurant that shares a building (and a door) with the Charles Theater still somehow manages to be cozy, bright and lively all at once. And that is even as you try in vain to find some way to move around the place! It is constantly packed and for good reason - Tapas Teatro is one of those few places that not only lives up to the hype, but somehow seems underhyped! I have not eaten at all of the tapas places in town (I will get to Pazo, I promise!), but this one is a fave for good reason.

Eric and I waited a good half hour for our table while we nursed our alcohol - his choice was wine, mine a bottle of Bass Ale. We spent the half hour trying to choose between the $35 Restaurant Week menu and the regular one. At most area restaurants, the $35 prix fixe menu is a steal (less so than in August when it was only $30, but still). But at Tapas Teatro the Restaurant Week menu consists of three plates: one small tapa, one large tapa, and one dessert tapa. For a grand total of $35. I rarely spend more than $15 here, but Tapas Teatro is a place where you could easily spend $30, $40 or $50 on tapas, but not on just three of them, unless you stick with the pricier options. As indecisive as I am, it took me a good while longer to choose. Eric seemed to settle rather quickly on the regular menu, and after another 10 minutes of hemming and hawing, I did too.

We ordered a total of seven different tapas - I chose three, and Eric chose the rest. He said that this was that rare occasion where every dish he ordered was really good. He had some sort of unsatisfying flatbread plate the night before while eating there with another friend of ours (shout out, Jim!) but this night was different.

Here's what we ordered. I would recommend each one:

ensalada del teatro ($7) - A peppery arugula salad with very thinly sliced red onion and an almost chocolaty balsamic vinaigrette

batter fried vegetables ($6) - This is one of my tried and true favorites. I have ordered this so many times (it was, in fact, the very first dish I wrote about on this blog). I still love the tempura asparagus, eggplant and thickly-cut onion, and that jalapeño-mango jelly goes with anything batter-fried. But I think after tonight I have a new favorite dish.

asiago cheese with tomato on Ciabatta ($5) - This wasn't the new favorite I meant. That one is below. But I still found myself going back to this garlicky cheese-covered ciabatta for one bite here and one bite there. I almost didn't have room for anything else after that.

asparagus with serrano ham ($8) - I only had a little bite of this. Tasty.

baby potatoes ($5) - I rarely find potatoes that I really like when I eat out, particularly those of the whole-roasted variety. But the flavor of the potatoes was a pleasant surprise, especially combined with the garlic aioli.

fried calamari ($9) - This is my new favorite. On the menu, it's listed as grilled calamari, but you can get it fried instead. And it will be one of the best fried calamari dishes you will eat. The calamari is quite tender, more so than any I have eaten. In addition, the coating is crunchy, light and not too greasy. Sadly, there are no long, stringy tentacles (I like those, okay?), but what you get is very satisfying.

skewered lamb with lentils - Eric ordered these, so I'm not sure how much these were. I can't find these on the menu. So I will have to ask about it next time I am there. What it was, was tender skewered lamb laying on a bed of lentils. This is a simple sounding dish that packs a lot of wonderful flavor. You don't have to win me over to lamb - I am a lamb-lovin' person as it is. Perhaps it's less lamb than I am used to, but I still liked the dish.

Minus Eric's glasses of sparkling rosé and coffee and our pre-dinner drinks, the total food bill was about $50 to $52 (making that lamb dish about $11 or $12). That's seven tapas for about $50, minus the six tapas we could've gotten from the Restaurant Week menu for $75. I have to say that ordering off the menu was by far the better deal for my skimpy bank account (what I ordered cost about $20). But if you can find a seat for Restaurant Week, peruse the prix fixe menu and decide for yourself what you'll get next.


Qiana said...

Tapas is my favorite. Me and my boyfriend Jason go all the time. They have EXCELLENT dishes. The bartenders Drew, Brendan, Beth etc they are the best. So kind and generous. You also have to check out Bistro @ B. The owner at Tapas' is the owner there also.
~Qiana M. Baltimore, MD