Tasting tapas and sampling Spain at Estadio

Estadio

1520 14th St., NW

Though it’s not hard to find a delicious meal within walking distance of campus, sometimes it’s nice to go that extra mile to give your taste buds what they’ve been searching for. Estadio, a tapas bar near Logan Circle, is the perfect excuse to explore the neighborhood.

As soon as you enter the main dining room, you are welcomed by the smell of cooking garlic, herbs, meats and cheese. The décor of the restaurant is a mixture between gothic and modern, with large hanging lanterns and deep wooden columns, but the atmosphere remains fun and lively. Four large flat screen TVs cater to the restaurant’s younger crowd. With a typical 30-minute wait on any weekend night, Estadio is a vivacious dining hot spot.

Media Credit: Ashley Lucas
Skewers of chorizo, manchego cheese and pistachio encrusted quince fruit wait on the Estadio countertop to be enjoyed by District residents craving a Spanish indulgence.

The menu is broken up into typical Tapas categories: appetizers, cured meats, cheese, soups and salads, sandwiches, vegetables, fish and shellfish, meat dishes and dessert. Though every dish on the somewhat overwhelming menu can begin to sound the same, the selection offers a variety of flavors and textures.

I spent the entire night watching the chefs prepare everything from grilling calamari to sautéing spinach to baking Tortilla Española, which made me even hungrier. We started off with two orders of the chorizo, Manchego and pistachio-crusted quince for $1.50 each. Skewered onto a bamboo toothpick, this was the epitome of Spain. Salty chorizo sausage lay atop a firm yet mild square of Manchego cheese. A small bed of pistachio-crusted quince paste, a taste and texture similar to pureed fig, added sweetness to the dish. We also ordered a montadito, $7, an open-faced sandwich of grilled country bread, olive oil, Serrano ham and Manchego cheese. The bread was perfectly grilled and crispy, and the ham melted in my mouth. I’ve had this dish at many other tapas restaurants, but Estadio’s version seemed much fresher, with each ingredient strategically placed.

Next, we placed a bountiful order of mussels, sautéed shrimp, spice grilled chicken and sautéed Brussels sprouts. The mussels, $11, were giant, soaked in a sweet, garlicky broth and topped with browned bits of chorizo. The shrimp, $10, was tender and juicy, in a bath of olive oil, herbs and red pepper flakes, and was easily one of the best shrimp dishes I have ever ordered. The chicken leg, $12, was marinated in a curry yogurt sauce. The flavor was warm and spicy, and it was served between a bed of cilantro rice and a blanket of crisp, sweet coleslaw with a hint of fresh tomato salsa. The Brussels sprouts, $7, were perfectly charred and crispy on the outside, while tender and moist on the inside. The mixture of currants and pine nuts provided a great balance between salty and sweet, and the portion size was surprisingly large for traditional tapas.

I forced myself to try dessert. Per the waiter’s suggestion, we decided on the Manchego cheesecake topped with quince jam and pistachio granola, $8. Manchego cheese is rather dense and tends to be on the salty side. The cheesecake, however, was light, fluffy and sweet without being too overbearing. The quince jelly was tart and rich, and balanced the lightly salted pistachio granola very well.

The thing about tapas is that, while every dish is usually less than $10, the bill adds up. While I do not regret the dinner, I would not tell a penny-pinching college student to run to Estadio. It is a great restaurant for parents’ weekend or a romantic date, but definitely not your typical night out.

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