Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Boqueria Food Review

Raya a la Plancha

And the Oscar Goes to...

It took Neil Patrick Harris all of 60 seconds to break into song at Sunday night's 87th annual Academy Awards. Not exactly my idea of entertainment; but lucky for me, I found the perfect antidote to a four-hour long TV show stuffed with musical numbers and Hollywood insider jokes... Unlimited tapas! Yes, it's true what they say: The way to a man's heart is through his stomach... preferably via tapa haven Boqueria in Dupont Circle. 240+ minutes never tasted so good.

Hats off to Boqueria for offering the aforementioned unlimited tapas (and drinks) as part of their Oscars Viewing Party. For just $45 per person, my guest and I feasted on a wide array of small bites, Spanish beer and sangria... all against the backdrop of the Academy Awards, tucked inside Boqueria's private dining room.

Oscars Viewing Party

The room itself was ultra cozy (love those light fixtures) and allowed an attentive staff just enough room to navigate, and fill (and refill) our glasses and plates all night. Even the pickiest foodie had a wealth of options to choose from. Me? I absolutely adore Spanish food; so I was basically let loose in a culinary candy store for a few hours. 11 tapas (and a few Estrella Damms later) I raised a white flag of surrender, just long enough to drink in Birdman's momentous night.

Pan con Tomate

Although the Oscar show failed to captivate (Harris' predictions & tighty whities = his last turn as host) Boqueria's exciting menu managed to turn the evening into a huge success. For starters, they were wise to keep it intimate (nobody likes sitting in a crowded room) and food/drink was flowing all night long.

Gambas al Ajillo

We ordered tapas two at a time, until we went through the entire rotation. Then, we reordered a few favorites (Pan con Tomate & Montados de Salmon.) The former accentuating the fact that great Spanish food is surprisingly simple; and the latter, showing off the kitchen's delicate touch. I suppose it's just a coincidence that both dishes utilized Boqueria's excellent bread (ditto for the Gambas al Ajillo.) Speaking of, well-seasoned shrimp, eight-at-a-time is a great way to secure a diner's everlasting loyalty... especially with its generous dose of aromatic garlic.

Montados de Salmon

The smoked salmon tapa could be my favorite. Creamy salmon, basil, red onions and strained yogurt, atop crispy toast? A most welcome block indeed. It also qualified as one of the night's prettiest dishes. Speaking of, please forgive the quality of my photos (the room was kinda dark, and flash photography is borderline obnoxious.)

Patatas Bravas

Patatas Bravas is always a crowd favorite; although truth be told, I thought the first plate (yes, we ordered seconds) had too much garlic aioli. The potatoes were incredibly crispy, and the salsa brava underneath... the perfect compliment. I wouldn't dream of not ordering it.

Pintxos de Tortilla

Kudos for originality on Pintxos de Tortilla, a clever way to introduce eggs into the mix. Mini Spanish omelettes with cherry tomatoes, atop the same garlic aioli were decidedly fluffy, light and scrumptious. Just one more reason why tapas make eating a lot more fun.


Lest you think I don't take my food seriously, I "went to town" on Boqueria's Albóndigas (lamb meatballs, drenched in a rich tomato sauce with teardrops of creamy cheese and tiny wedges of crunchy cucumber.) Lamb trumps beef, especially in a meatball (no density here, that's for sure.) Any other night, and I would have devoured a dozen or two.

Coca de Escalivada

Flat bread lovers rejoice: Coca de Escalivada is here! Fire-roasted bell peppers, basil, eggplant (yum) goat cheese and onions equals a dynamite pizza, made all-the-better with a sprinkle of Pedro Ximénez Sherry (Spain makes some amazing oils and vinegars, don't they?) My only regret? That there wasn't more eggplant across the menu.

Pimientos de Padrón

Speaking of regrets, I wouldn't be a proper critic lest I found some fault with the meal. That distinction sadly goes to our plate of Pimientos de Padrón (blistered Shishito peppers with sea salt.) The culprit? The aforementioned sea salt (Maldon) which was applied with a heavy, heavy hand. Perhaps we could blame it on the fact that it was a British salt? No Sal de Hielo? The peppers were also on the flimsy side, and Boqueria's only miss of the night.

Churros con Chocolate

Calabaza Asada provides fans of butternut squash a moment to celebrate. Paired with crunchy hazelnuts, sweet honey and aged Mahón cheese (nice and soft) it rivals Patatas Bravas for best side dish of the night. Coliflor Rustida delivers cauliflower in caramelized form, which helps (cauliflower isn't a favorite of mine) but gets better with the addition of mint, raisins and yogurt... crunchy pine nuts too.)

Estrella Damm

That leaves us with dessert (an incredible cup of churros, literally to die for) and the highlight of the evening for me... Raya a la Plancha - Impossibly delicate Skate with crispy fingerling potatoes and dill, atop a pool of yogurt. Lots of flavors, married perfectly... although ours seemed to be missing the advertised pickled cauliflowers (which just happens to be my favorite kind of cauliflower, or any vegetable for that matter.)

I was a good boy, and limited myself to just two beers (Estrella Damm... one of my favorites) although it was clear that unlimited sangria was a favorite at some neighboring tables: After all, it was a long night. Overall, it's hard to ask for more (OK, I'll try: Monkfish, squid, bacon-wrapped dates... I love Boqueria's menu) so good in fact, I'd love to come back next year and do it all over again.

Dying of envy? Who can blame you? You can enjoy unlimited tapas, drinks and desserts every Sunday at Boqueria's Brunch (10:30 AM - 2 PM with a 2½ hour limit... no need to be greedy.) Click here to see the full menu. Of course, you can order a la carte anytime, and don't forget Happy Hour and Late Night Eats on Fridays & Saturdays.