Undefined Meatiness - Manchego and Jamon

This is a food review.

Restaurant: Sangria Tapas Bar
Rating: 4 out of 5

Last night we ate at Sangria, a new tapas bar on Main Street in Sarasota. Having never been to Spain I didn't know quite what to expect, but the strains of a flamenco guitar wafting into the street, the mediterranean decor, and the impressive wine rack behind the bar instantly made me feel like I had been whisked away to a quaint little street bar somewhere in Epcot. No, I'm being too cynical, and in fact I've never been to Epcot either. The fact is, the atmosphere was very nice, and it had a stamp of approval from my dinner companion, who tells me she grew up in Spain (I'm still checking on this).

Sangria is a place where you can eat cheaply or expensively depending on your appetite. We had gorilla appetites and therefore dropped some serious cash. We started with two glasses of a very nice, full-bodied Spanish wine, Marques de Caceres Rioja. Queenannewine.com says it has "a certain undefined meatiness." I'm not sure if that's a compliment or not, but we enjoyed it and I will definitely purchase this wine again.

Good bread and even better olives were plentiful, and I probably ate 85% of my daily sodium waiting for the first tapas dishes to arrive. We ordered first a dish of jamon serrano and manchego cheese, drizzled with olive oil and served with more bread. My companion, who is a fount of knowledge of things Iberian, explained to me that "manchego" means "of La Mancha." This pleased me greatly. I also remember her telling me a good share of the olive oil in the U.S. is actually produced in Spain. Who knew?

The jamon serrano was very good, like a milder version of prosciutto (which I hold dear), and the cheese complimented it nicely with a slightly nutty flavor. Unlike authentic Manchego cheese, this was pasteurized (another fun fact from Senorita Palomo!) This dish was served at the same time as a cold squid salad, which was really just squid marinated in lime juice and olive oil with some herbs. This too was good, but the marinade fell short of the taste-tacular sensation that good ceviche provides. Frankly I think they'd be better off with a good ceviche on the menu. Did I mention I make a killer ceviche?

After this we had mas vino, along with a plate of 6 little clams stuffed with what seemed to be mostly breadcrumbs and butter. It was a little rich for my taste, but went well with the wine.
From beginning to end I made the server bring three plates of bread & olives. Three! Kitchen Monkey was ravenous!

We also had dessert: sauteed bannanas with vanilla ice cream, pistachios, and caramel.
I predict Sangria doing quite well, especially if they can change their menu on a regular basis to keep people coming back for new and interesting tapas. I'll be back just for the "Manchego and Jamon", and not just because it sounds like a 1970s Mexican cop show.

By the end of the meal I was extremely full, somewhat tipsy, and my reflexes slow. On each table they keep a beer mug filled with forks, and on my way out I clumsily knocked one off the table, scattering thousands of forks across the tile floor of the restaraunt. Everybody stared at Kitchen Monkey!


liz said...

Ceviche schmeviche! The calamares were quite delectable, delicately flavored, the way good Spanish chefs know how to make them. When it comes to seafood, the Spanish generally see adding intense flavors as a crime. (I'm just sayin').
The owner, por cierto, is from Spain and knows what's up. He's a super nice guy and has been saving up money waiting tables for years to open his dream restaurant and he finally did it! We used to wait tables together and he was always talking about wanting to open a tapas restaurant. I highly recommend everyone goes to Sangria not just because the food is authentic but because the owner deserves to do well.

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