Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Chicago Dining World Tour: On Tapas the World in Evanston

Tapas Barcelona
1615 Chicago Ave., Evanston

What I ate: Mero con Espinacas al Limon, Cangrejo Con Ali-Oli, Platano con Caramelo y Helado

Before enjoying a meal at Evanston's Tapas Barcelona in late December as part of my Chicago Dining World Tour, the only other two times I have been there were on July 11, 2010 and
July 1, 2012.

The reason I know these dates--or more accurately, could easily look them up--is because they were the days Spain won the 2010 World Cup and then Euro 2012.

Not that we're such huge soccer fans, but it's plain that my mom, sister Allison and I have been prompted to visit the 'muy bueno' Spanish restaurant housed in the space that long-ago held Fritz, That's It--an early Lettuce Entertain You joint and family favorite--mainly by the futbol reign of Spain.

So it seems possible we will next return there on July 13 of this year, if Spain happens to successfully defend its World Cup title.

But although tapas are the quintessential food made for sharing, without any victories to celebrate I went myself and still found it quite enjoyable.

This isn't such a surprise as about 20 years ago I was introduced to an excellent restaurant in Naperville called Meson Sabika, which served tapas and I believe was somehow connected to Chef Emilio Gervilla, whose Emilio's Tapas in Hillside I've also visited.

And before I traveled to Spain itself in 2005--and ate tapas there--I organized a small outing to Tapas Gitana in Northfield, which I think also descended from Emilio. 

Though Emilio used to have a few more restaurants under his name or direct control, it seems that all three of the places I just mentioned still exist as of this writing.

I've also heard excellent things about Café Iberico and Mercat a La Planxa in Chicago, but I've always liked Tapas Barcelona and it was much more convenient in trying to fit numerous ethnic eateries into the tail end of 2013.

I went there on an evening when I wasn't all that hungry, but that made two tapas (i.e. small plates) just about perfect.

And though I have always enjoyed sharing with mom, Allison and others with who I've frequented tapas bars--be careful saying that around women, men; they'll think you're creepy--it was nice having the tapas I wanted all to myself.

As is customary; I was first given a basket of delicious bread which I dipped in olive oil. I also ordered myself a glass of sangria.

Both were terrific.

Both of the tapas I ordered were hot selections, i.e. Tapas Calientes, as opposed to Tapas Frias, which include items such as garlic potato salad (Patatas Alioli) and marinated olives (Aceitunas Aliñadas).

My first plate came off the nightly specials menu:

Cangrejo Con Ali-Oli = Puff pastry filled with crab meat, topped with ali-oli.

Because of the puff pastries, this reminded be a good bit of the plate of escargot I had gotten at Jilly's Cafe, also in Evanston. But whereas those had puffs each sitting atop a snail swimming in butter, here the crab meat was part of each puff sandwich.

They were delicious.

I also enjoyed my other tapas selection, which came from the Tapas Calientes section of the regular menu: 

Mero con Espinacas al Limon = Sauteed Tilapia with garlic spinach, mashed Parmesan potatoes, lemon butter.

I most often eat tilapia blackened and/or with Cajun seasoning, so the flavoring was blander--and thus less exciting--but there was nothing bad about it and the accompanying Parmesan-enriched mashed potatoes were very good.

In the name of cultural culinary research, I was compelled to order dessert.

And while I was intrigued by Crema CatalanaCatalan style crème brùlèe, I've had--and loved--crème brùlèe enough other places that I deferred to something a bit more unique:

Platano con Caramelo y Helado = Sauteed banana covered in caramel, pistachios, vanilla ice cream.


Now, especially having been to Barcelona, I know most residents there speak Catalan, not Spanish, and that there are some variances in the two cuisines.

I would imagine that given its name, Tapas Barcelona touches on both cultures and styles of cooking, but I cannot say for certain.

All I really know is that even without arriving aboard an international soccer bandwagon, the meal I had was definitely a winner.

1 comment:

Ken said...

Took my daughter and her college roommate there seven years ago and ate outside during late summer. I still remember it as a wonderful dining experience. The last time I had tapas before that was in the late 90s at a little Spanish place outside of Pleasanton California when I worked out that way. Come to think of it, that was a great dining experience too!