Wednesday, August 31, 2016

TapaBar review - Bethesda

I finally had a chance to try TapaBar yesterday, the new venture from the brothers who brought you Bold Bite next door. Chef Alonso Roche pushes simple favorites like hot dogs and hamburgers to the limit at Bold Bite, with an emphasis on quality meats and high-end, fresh and housemade toppings and sauces. Now what he hinted at in the fast casual setting is being more fully explored at the inviting tapas bar he and brother Alvaro recently opened in the old BlackFinn space, at 4901-A Fairmont Avenue.
Start off with a refreshing cocktail, like one of four gin-and-tonic variations with housemade tonics. I tried the standard El Retiro, with Hendrick's gin and a slice of cucumber. The drink was bursting with flavor, the best cocktail I've had in a while.

My favorites of the tapas I tried were the earthy, cheesy rich croquetas de setas, mushroom croquettes; gambas al aljillo, a delicious shrimp classic; the butifarra, which has a type of blue cheese mixed into the sausage, and is made locally by MeatCrafters in Landover; and the perfectly-cooked asaparagus and cauliflower. Vegetarians will definitely want to give Tapabar a try.

Alonso Roche's enthusiasm and passion for cooking come through in every dish, whether it's a perfectly-fried and plated egg atop the Smoky Beef Tartare, or the current fish special, Pil Pil. A traditional Basque dish, the gelatin of the salted cod is used in the sauce. Roche is using Norwegian cod, because it has a higher gelatin content. It's not easy to prepare, and not easily found in local restaurants, so stop in this week while it's still on the menu. I would expect more unusual dishes like this in the months ahead at TapaBar.

For Bethesda skeptics like Tom Sietsema, I suggest planning a trip to TapaBar immediately. In fact, I suggest it to everyone. For freshness, quality, flavor and creativity, TapaBar earns a five-star rating from me. The good news is, the prices are not five-star level.
Step up to the bar
El Retiro
Cucumber slice
Embutidos board with
house-pickled vegetables
Quesos board
Montaditos
Smoky Beef Tartare, topped
with perfectly fried quail eggs
and truffle oil
A closer look
Panceta de cerdo, a new addition
to the menu as fall approaches, is
white wine-braised pork belly in
piquillo sauce
Vegetarians won't be left
behind with roasted cauliflower
on piquillo puree
Salmon curado en casa
is house-cured salmon on 
toast with fennel salad and
radishes
A well-placed mirror really
opens up the front of the room
Dine at the bar
...or at a table
Sample a glass or bottle
from the wine list like
this Pingao from Rioja Alta,
made with 100%
Tempranillo grapes
Another perfectly-cooked
vegetable choice, the
esparragos
Croquetas de setas are
mushroom croquettes
A look inside one
A pour of the Pingao
Gambas al aljillo,
a true classic

Valdeon Blue Cheese Butifarra
with pear shallot jam rioja and
sauce
A close-up
Pulpo (smoked octopus)
A limited-time special:
Pil Pil


18 comments:

Maloney Concrete said...

Great review and addition to the neighborhood!

Anonymous said...

Mmmm wine-braised pork belly
Nice review and pictures. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

This place has reasonable happy hour drink specials as well. Though I find portion size lacking, the tapas are immensely flavorful and the space is bright and attractive.

Out of curiosity, are these review visits done anonymously and/or is the food comped? (couldn't help but notice the quantity of food you were served, assuming it was done in a single visit)

Anonymous said...

Great photos...my mouth is watering!

Anonymous said...

Portion size and tapas...not sure you get the concept.

Tapa Bar said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Talk about a huge improvement over the dumpster fire that was Blackfinn. I still prefer the vibe of La Malinche, personally, but definitely hope Tapabar succeeds.

Anonymous said...

10:57AM - Why are you being a mean-spirited jerk? You're embarrassing yourself with your obsession to get Dyer's attention by posting insulting comments. Have you no shame?

Anonymous said...

10:57AM - You win the 2016 Washington Area Pulitzer Prize (WAPP!) in sarcasm. Hilarious.

Anonymous said...

"Sample a glass or bottle",says Dyer the Alkie.

Anonymous said...

Mister Robert, why don't you have a slice of my famous chocolate pie? It got dat good vanilla from Mexico...and somethin' else rrrrreal special...

Elm said...

10:57am enjoys writing snarky fiction. He may have a future in the local legacy media!

Anonymous said...

Ah, Elm, my #1 enemy on this forum. When will you realize your fan base is non-existent? I troll for the people, the great people of Bethesda. They thrive off my comments and it only fuels me more. You on the other hand, you merely take pleasure in the fact that you occasionally come to the aid of a man against a cyber bully - SO SCARY! Please, please for the benefit of the readers, stop commenting. You bringith nothing and only dampen the mood here.

So one last time, while it has been fun battling your moribund, melancholy banter, the great readers of Robert's blog will be better off without you. RIP.

Anonymous said...

AT LEAST DYER IS UNINTENTIONALLY FUNNY!!!

Anonymous said...

1:56PM It’s impressive that you’re flexible enough to have your foot in your mouth and head up your ass at the same time.

Anonymous said...

10:57 authors "Poppy"

Anonymous said...

Nice write-up, and I agree, the drinks and food are delicious at this place! As far as the photo captions though, that looks like a strip of lime peel to me in the drink, not a cucumber slice...

Anonymous said...

10:57 is another tombstone in Dyer's war on free speech.