Tapeo: Tel Aviv’s tapas chain

Israel’s trusted name in tapas hosts a chef from Barcelona

 (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Tapeo, the two-restaurant chain that is one of the country’s pioneers in introducing Israelis to authentic Spanish tapas, never rests on its laurels. It is constantly adding dishes and adjusting their seasonality, while it recently inaugurated a new slate of creative cocktails. Tapas aficionados will especially appreciate what the kitchens have planned next: Michelin-star chef Oriol Rovira of Els Casals in Catalonia will be a guest chef next month (November 6 at Tapeo in Tel Aviv, and November 7 at Tapeo in Herzliya).
The Tapeo menu is best perused while sipping one of the restaurant’s specialty cocktails. The Pistolero (NIS 46), for example – mezcal, triple sec, agave syrup, basil, chili, vanilla and lime, served neat in a martini glass and garnished with a fiery red pepper – packs a double punch, thanks to the two different kinds of liquor and the piquant spices.
Another good choice is the Sangria Roja (NIS 34), made in-house with red wine from Spain, brandy, cinnamon and citrus. It can be ordered with ice for a refreshing drink in the summer or warm in the winter.
The food menu at Tapeo comprises eight categories, covering a wide variety of dishes. The tapas-sized portions – and reasonable prices – meant that we were able to sample one representative from each section (with the exception of paella, which we surmised might be too filling).
The first category is Pan and Pinxtos, the tapas version of bruschetta – two small slices of toast with assorted toppings. We chose the Escabeche Pincho (NIS 32): cured sea bream and fresh asparagus on a cream of eggplant with almond. The asparagus was chopped so finely that it was barely discernible; but as an ensemble, the ingredients worked very well together.
Next came a beet salad called Remolacha (NIS 32), one of eight dishes in the Vegetales category (there are vegetarian and vegan options in many of the other categories as well).
The large chunks of roasted beetroot tossed with red onion, pine nuts and Manchego cheese in a mild green salsa formed a terrific interplay of flavors and textures.
From the Carnes (Meat) category, we chose the Solomillo (NIS 46): aged sirloin steak with a green garlic sauce and demi-glace. The meat, grilled to a perfect medium, was as succulent as you would find in a steakhouse, enhanced nicely by the distinctive sauce.
Barramundi (NIS 46), our knowledgeable waitress informed us, is no longer imported from Australia but is farmed in freshwater ponds in Israel. Here it makes its appearance in the Ceviche section, marinated in tequila and lime with fresh herbs.
Besides also being tossed with green beans in a chipotle pepper sauce, there was a welcome seasonal addition: small cubes of mango. The freshness of the raw white fish was evident, while the touch of sweetness from the fruit provided delectable counterpoint to the spiciness of the tangy marinade.
As we pondered our choices in the Mariscos (Seafood) category, our waitress gave us a recommendation: Calamari con judias (NIS 42) – stirfried calamari with black beans in a chipotle sauce. We were very happy we followed her advice. Both the calamari and beans were cooked to an excellent al dente texture, while the smoky chili sauce delivered a pleasant tingle of heat with each mouthful.
We had no hesitation in choosing from the three classic Spanish dishes in the Clasico section: croquetas of goose breast and mushroom in a béchamel sauce (NIS 32). The three crispy balls containing premium fillings in rich, creamy sauce exploded into flavor with each bite.
There was a separate dessert menu which, not surprisingly, contained churros (NIS 36), making our choice of the popular Spanish treat a no-brainer. Although we had only enough room for one dessert, the five buttery sticks were enough for two to share. The thin crullers sprinkled with cinnamon sugar were just right: a little crunch on the outside, yielding to soft gooiness on the inside. Accompanied by decadent dips of chocolate ganache and toffee, the warm churros were the ideal finale to a memorable meal.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
Tapeo Not kosher 16 Ha’arba’a St., Tel Aviv; Tel: (03) 624-0484 9 Arieh Shenkar St., Herzliya; Tel: (09) 954-6699