The older I get, the harder it is to remember things. This includes my correct age. For the last few months I kept thinking I was a year older than I was. The good news is that on my birthday I have no trouble adjusting to my new number. So it is notable that nearly two weeks later my memories of the food at Boqueria are still vivid…. relatively speaking.
On the evening of my birthday I dine out with four friends. I have some trepidation about group dining and tapas, particularly since my BFF recently declared that she doesn’t much like dining with me when we’re having small plates. (for more on this see my review of Sugo Cichetti). It turns out that the small plates aren’t really the problem. It’s the disruption to the meal caused by my picture-taking and tweeting, which means that I’m a distracted dining companion. Despite this, the relatively new tapas restaurant in Dupont Circle tops my dining out wish list, and seems like a perfect fit for the occasion.
To address the issue of only having tiny tastes of tapas, I suggest that we double up on dishes instead of striving for more variety. This way although we sample less, we can more fully appreciate what we’re eating. Our server advises is that initially we may want to hold off on this approach until we see how big the dishes are. This turns out to be sound advice.
We begin with a pitcher of white sangria and cheese. We’re seated next to the bar and it’s a little loud. In fact as we’re led to our table the hostess tells us it should quiet down as the happy hour crowd departs. This makes us feel old, even though we’re not opposed to a little less noise. On the other hand, we feel some sense of pride that we’re in the midst of an energetic bar scene in DC on a weeknight.
Our first tapas arrives. It is two orders of patatas bravas, which we order despite the warning about doubling up on dishes. The server is pretty astute. It’s a generous serving and two orders for five women is a bit much. On the other hand, can you really eat too many crispy potatoes dotted with salsa and a wonderful roasted garlic allioli? It’s my birthday, and I’m going to do my best to tackle these with abandon.
We are thrilled by Espinacas a la Catalana which is sautéed spinach, garbanzos, pine nuts, garlic, and raisins. The ingredients are coated with a delightful lemon and garlic sauce,which is bold and tangy but not overwhelming. We marvel at the fact that the spinach isn’t overly wilted. The portion size is perfect for us to share. Two orders would have been overkill.
Three of us are meat-eaters. We share pintxos morunos, which is skewers of lamb seasoned with lemon and cumin. The lamb is tender and the salsa verde with citrus undertones add interest. One serving is adequate, although I would have happily shared a second order.
We also have buñuelos de Bacalao– salt-cod and potato fritters. The light and crispy fritters are accompanied by citrus allioli.
Salteado de setas marries sauteed mushrooms, manchego cheese, thyme….and lemon zest. Citrus is making an appearance in most of our dishes. Since we’re tasting these dishes independently, the common denominator escapes our notice. I’m becoming increasingly aware of it as I’m writing, but it’s more of an observation than a complaint.
I have forgotten to order a cauliflower dish that sounds appealing, but we’ve had plenty of tapas. Instead we launch into dessert, including churros with chocolate. We debate a second dessert. We’re having some difficulty, so our server saves the day again by suggesting a dessert special. It’s fresh pineapple dotted with molasses and lime zest. (I know, I know…more citrus). It’s surprising how delicious something so simple can be.
So often when I leave a restaurant I think “been there, eaten that” and check it off my list. This time I’m wondering how soon I can make a return visit. Ten days later my friend tells me that she is still conjuring up the taste of the spinach dish, and is wondering the same thing.
I find it easier to forget things these days, and writing myself notes becomes mandatory. This is a factor of both age and having far too many things happening at the same time. One task I’m not going to forget? Making a reservation for a return visit to Boqueria in the very near future.
Boqueria, 1837 M St. NW, Washington, DC
Washington Post review by Tom Sietsema