Robyn D. of Malvern writes: Am I crazy, or are there no good tapas restaurants in this area?
After receiving Robyn’s email, I replied with questions about her particular culinary perspective. “Good” is a subjective term, as is “tapas.” To a few well-known local restaurateurs, “tapas” means meticulously prepared morsels of Spanish-inspired fare. For others, it could translate to Americanized small plates or sharable dishes with global influences.
Robyn told me that she’s been to Amada and Tinto (both in Philly) several times, and they are her “benchmarks” for tapas. She’s hoping to find similar places here in the burbs.
So, here are my top two suggestions:
Verdad Restaurant & Tequila Bar
818 W. Lancaster Ave., Bryn Mawr;
(610) 520-9100, verdadrestaurant.com
Operated by Chef Nick Farina, this Latin-fusion restaurant is firmly located on the Main Line but has a coolly urban vibe inside. Farina has talent to spare, and he infuses whimsy and flare into the ordinary—like the sweet addition of kiwi and strawberry to his guacamole, which takes a hot turn, thanks to the incendiary kiss of habanero pepper. The ceviche is delicate yet divine; mine, which comprised two tender bites of hamachi, zipped along my tongue from the marinade of lime, pineapple, coconut, cilantro and jalapeño seed. Our server, Lindsey, steered us toward the honey-tinged pork tacos—and we thank her. Verdad also offers larger sharing dishes, such as striped bass, short ribs and paella.
382 E. Elm St., Conshohocken; (484) 532-7470, barisabella.com
This noteworthy newcomer to Conshy’s blue-collar-lined interior is an intriguing little spot that could have easily gone the gastro-pub route. Instead of a Spain-only focus, Isabella’s tapas menu has a decidedly international flare. There’s the typical choices (charcuterie, mussels, etc.), nods to France (foie gras, canard au poivre), and several Medi-plates (gnocchi, Burrata). On a recent afternoon visit, I had small plates of marinated octopus, blue-cheese-stuffed figs folded in Marcona almonds, and the amazingly toothsome spinach-ricotta gnocchi swimming in heavenly brown butter. The bottom line: Chef Michael Cappon, an El Vez and Marathon Grill alum, is fiercely serious about his kitchen’s food. This isn’t fad tapas. It’s the real deal.
Tell us your favorite Main Line tapas restaurants by leaving a comment below.