Monday, May 24, 2010

Tapas at La Tasca Near DC

During my recent trip to Washington DC I for a work related conference I encouraged some of my colleagues to join me in downtown Rockville, MD for dinner and drinks.  While I actually had intentions of finding a Peruvian restaurant, our dining destination easily revealed itself when we saw a Spanish Tapas joint with outdoor dining called La Tasca.  While La Tasca has multiple locations, they are all in the greater DC/Baltimore area so it at least is a regional chain.

Joined by Nadine, Dan, and Jane, we began with a pitcher of Cava Sangria.  This delicious and sweet beverage contained sparkling wine, triple sec, brandy, grape juice, and blueberries.  The drink didn't fit with my sweet tooth all that well, but I still enjoyed it and ate the booze soaked blueberries afterwards.  We also ordered a pitcher of Sangria Rosada.  This mixed wine concoction had rose vino, grape juice, blueberries, and strawberries.  Not quite as sugary as the first sangria, I enjoyed several glasses of this one while tasting the tapas.

Spanish Tapas at La Tasca Plate Number One

Upon looking at the menu we realized that we'd really like to try everything.  Fortunately for us La Tasca has several tapas tastings for us to order.  Each tapas tasting menu is supposed to be about right for two people, so we ordered both the meat and seafood tastings for the four of us to share.  The thing I love most about eating tapas is that the variety is meant to be shared.  It designed to work like a series of appetizers at typical American restaurants.  Everybody shares a whole bunch of food, and then there is no need for individual entrees!  The meat tasting menu featured Buey al Jerez (grilled flank steak with sherry and mushroom sauce), Pollo al Ajillo (chicken breast cooked in white wine and garlic), Albondigas (meatballs served in a vegetable marinara), Chorizo a la Parilla (grilled spicy Spanish sausage links), Solomillo de Cerdo (grilled pork tenderloin wrapped in bacon), Tortilla Española (traditional Spanish potato and onion omelet), Espinacas Salteadas (sauteed spinach with pine nuts and raisins), and Meloso de Ajo (creamy rice with roasted garlic, nuts, and raisins).  By far my favorite dish out of these was the Buey al Jerez.  The beef had a tremendous flavor and the sherry/mushroom sauce was spot on.  I also like the Espinacas Salteadas for the simplicity of it while still serving as a fantastic vegetable dish.  Some of the other dishes were decent, others quite forgettable.  Let's move on to the seafood tasting.

Spanish Tapas at La Tasca Plate Number Two

The dishes arrived at our table mixed and matches, so the pictures of the plates are not necessarily in any order.  Still, with a keen eye, I bet you can identify most of the cuisines.  The seafood tasting menu had Vieiras Cava (grilled scallops in a creamy champagne sauce), Calamares Andaluza (fried calamari with garlic mayonnaise), Salmon a la Plancha (grilled salmon, spinach and fried mussels), Gambas al Ajillo (shrimp sautéed in olive oil and garlic), Paella Valenciana (chicken and mixed seafood paella), Aritos de la Huerta (fried onion, green and red pepper rings), Setas al Ajillo (mushrooms sautéed in garlic and olive oil), and Ensalada de Espinacas (spinach and Cabrales cheese salad).  While the food tasted alright at the time, thinking back it really had been masked by extreme hunger, sweet sangria, and good conversation.  All of the seafood tasting dishes were quite edible, but by no means were they admirable or outstanding.  I never once recall thinking "DAMN!" or "I need to learn how to make this!"  Even the paella was disappointing, and I had been looking forward to it!  In the end, I enjoyed the atmosphere, I enjoyed the idea of tapas, and I enjoyed the company.  The food ended up being an afterthought, and I'm glad that it was because otherwise I would have been terrible disappointed and upset that I fell victim to a fairly useless restaurant.  Tapas are great, but I'd prefer a little more authenticity.  Next time I'm in DC (or Rockville to be exact), I'll make sure to try something else.

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