Last week, the SF Chronicle got down to the meat of tapas, bringing to light how the small plates have deviated from their original Mediterranean routes. In Spain, tapas are essentially just tiny appetizers, a precursor to dinner, and more about “strolling and snacking,” than filling your belly sharing a lot of little plates with pals, as Americans do.
In some towns, bars become known for their expert preparation of a particular tapa, so friends might meet at the venue famous for its sauteed mushrooms then walk to the place with the best ham and finally on to an establishment that does superb fried squid.
The article includes a “San Francisco tapas walk,” a list of five places to visit consecutively in one evening. Russian Hill’s Zarzuela (2000 Hyde at Union) didn’t make that list, but was recommended as another place to check out. I pass the restau on my weekday route, and have been meaning to check it out for the last two years. So with tapas on the brain this week, I finally made a visit . . .
For Yours Truly, going to tapas is about three things: friends, food, and sangria.
- We had a party of six, which I think is the ideal head count for an American-style tapas dinner: few enough to share a lively conversation, yet large enough to try a range of plates.
- As for the food, the sauteed shrimp in garlic and olive oil were flavorful yet light; the patatas bravas were indulgent and filling; and the pork shops were so-so but their sauteed mushrooms stole the show. Admittedly, though the choice was not so adventurous, the salad with candied walnuts, blue cheese, and apples could become an everyday favorite; it was sweet, savory, and refreshing.
- Last but not least, the sangria was just how I like it: not unnecessarily sweetened, with a healthy helping of fruit.
As for the atmosphere, I found it unpretentious and charming. The service? No complaints. 4 stars.