Dish of the Week: Boqueria’s tapas

Media Credit: Lily Speredelozzi | Assistant Photo Editor

Boqueria provides both the lively atmosphere and flavorful tapas options of Spain right here in D.C. without hopping on a flight to Madrid or Barcelona.

Just blocks from Dupont Circle, Boqueria offers a slice of the Barcelona tapas scene right from the District.

Boqueria’s Dupont location is one of two in D.C. – here just a 15-minute walk from campus and the other in Penn Quarter – serving up traditional Spanish fare with an emphasis on enhancing the eating experience through shared small plates. The restaurant specializes in the country’s tapas, including patatas bravas, croquettes and tortilla Española, along with more Spanish favorites like paella, cured ham and sangria.

Outside the restaurant, a streetside patio that will surely be bustling come summer frames a staircase leading to the second-floor entrance of the sage green-colored establishment. The dining area is divided in half with a small, more private room just off the entrance and a more expansive main space encircling the bar to the right of the front door. Wooden floors, tables and wall furnishings create an intimate setting, complete with the dim lighting from hanging light fixtures.

High-top booth seating along the restaurant’s back wall overlooks the expansive wine cellar, which spans floor to ceiling behind clear glass. Four-person, low-top tables and bar-side, high-top options complete the seating arrangement. Chalkboard menus hang from the bar, displaying the happy hour menu and drink and dinner specials.

My friends and I arrived at Boqueria just after 4:30 p.m. on a Friday, in time for the restaurant’s daily 3 to 6 p.m. happy hour. True to its name, the atmosphere of the restaurant was happy and lively – minutes after we were seated at a table, our server was already proposing a round of Tequila shots. We came for the happy hour tapas menu, but there are also traditional brunch, lunch and dinner menus available. We started out happy hour the only right way – with a pitcher of white sangria, a light and citrusy drink that eventually paired well with our fried tapas options.

The regular dinner and tapas menu is home to many of Spain’s traditional dishes with a little bit of everything, from two variations of paella ($19 and $29) to charcuterie offerings with aged ham, cheese and olives ($14-36) to tapas like bacon wrapped dates ($10), ham croquettes ($9) and pickled anchovies ($13). The brunch and lunch menus offer the same tapas in addition to salads and egg dishes, while the dessert menu offers more Spanish classics like flan ($10).

We split a mix of tapas from the happy hour menu, deciding on the tortilla Española ($6), patatas bravas ($6) and pan con tomate con jamon y manchego ($10). We made sure to finish on a sweet note with the churros con chocolate ($5).

The tortilla Española, a traditional Spanish frittata, did not disappoint. Complete with soft, warm potatoes, eggs and fresh, tangy onions to add a subtle sweetness, the dish satisfied us while leaving room for more tapas to come. A garlic aioli sauce on the side was the optimal pairing for the frittata – the lemony, salty sauce is evidently a staple of many of Boqueria’s tapas, including the patatas bravas.

The patatas bravas – or sautéed potatoes – were the highlight of the evening without a doubt. The pile of crispy potatoes was drawn together by the creamy and mild nature of the garlic aioli, mixing with the pop of heat from the salsa brava, spicy tomato sauce, and the Pimentón – smoked paprika. The patatas bravas made for the ideal shared dish, with all four of us getting a decent serving of three potatoes. The oily potatoes, somewhat heavy on their own, paired well with our fruity sangria and light cocktails.

We ordered the pan con tomate con jamón y manchego next, which consisted of two pieces of grilled bread rubbed with tomato, garlic and olive oil served with four substantial pieces of jamón serrano – cured ham – and manchego – a quintessential Spanish cheese – on the side. The crusty, toasted bread and the soft, acidic tomato spread combined for a textural contrast that burst with flavor with the smoky ham and sharp taste of cheese on top.

As we finished the evening, our waiter recommended the churros con chocolate for dessert. The dish came with about six thin, long pieces of traditional fried dough dusted with cinnamon sugar and served with a thick, hot chocolate sauce on the side for dipping. The thin, crispy churros paired with the thick, gooey chocolate sauce created an ideal combination of both texture and sweet flavor, a welcomed change from the salty tapas we’d enjoyed throughout our meal.

Lily Speredelozzi | Assistant Photo Editor

While the food struck all the right texture and flavor notes, the best part about dining at Boqueria is the shared eating experience. Splitting tapas between friends allows for an interactive meal, with everyone passing plates and sharing commentary about the delectable bites.

Boqueria provides both the lively atmosphere and flavorful tapas options of Spain right here in D.C. without hopping on a flight to Madrid or Barcelona.

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