(out of five stars):
It’s been about a year since I left GW to study abroad in Spain, and I’m beginning to feel a little nostalgic – especially for the food.
Luckily, Boqueria Tapas Bar and Restaurant, located just a short walk from campus on the corner of 19th and M streets promised to cure my cravings. The restaurant was packed when I went on a Thursday evening with some friends, but we still managed to grab a high-top table at the bar within 15 minutes.
Don’t miss these:
Rosemary Manchego ($5)
Jamon Serrano ($9)
Churros con Chocolate ($7)
Signature Red Sangria ($34)
The bar, which takes up almost half of the restaurant, is framed by chalkboards listing daily specials in funky handwriting. Dim lighting, a room full of chatter and Spanish music made me feel like I was truly back in Europe.
After reading over the menu, my friends and I placed a hefty order of assorted tapas. Our waitress advised us to order two to three plates per person – the portions are on the smaller side – so we could try different vegetable, potato and meat dishes.
The first dish to arrive at our table was Coca de Setas ($14), a homemade flatbread with tender, roasted wild mushrooms, mixed Spanish cheeses, sweet caramelized onions and crisp frisée lettuce. Each element of the dish was unique in texture and flavor, but together they melded perfectly.
Next we received Gambas al Ajillo ($13): juicy shrimp in a spicy garlic pepper oil. The shrimp were sweet and tender, and there were more than enough for all of us. The next three dishes to arrive at our table were three of my favorites from Spain: Patatas Bravas ($9), Espinacas a la Catalana ($8) and Croquetas Cremosas ($11). The Patatas Bravas rivaled those that I ate in Spain. The crispy potato wedges were generously doused in spicy fire-roasted tomato “salsa brava” and creamy garlic aioli. The potatoes, though covered in sauce, maintained their crunch and temperature, and the two sauces balanced each other very well.
The spinach in the Espinacas a la Catalana was briefly cooked so that it was hot without losing its crunch. The addition of pine nuts, garbanzo beans and golden raisins paired well with the greens.
Finally, the croquetas were filled with sautéed mushrooms and salty serrano ham – a traditional Spanish meat, similar to prosciutto. I could tell they were freshly fried from their crisp, golden exterior and creamy inside. We washed our meal down with a pitcher of seasonal sangria ($34) made with sparkling rosé wine and cranberries.
The quality of food was worth the wait, and although it may not be suitable for an intimate meal, the atmosphere was conducive to catching up with friends and winding down over tapas and sangria. I would highly recommend making a reservation, though, as you are bound to wait on any weekend night, and the aroma of fried potatoes, garlic and ham might drive you crazy if you’re starving.
As they say in Spain, ¡Buen Provecho!