Sailing to Canton
We dove in by ordering a few dishes, talking, drinking, and sampling - and then ordering a few more. I ate a lot of tapas during a recent trip around Catalonia, where my husband dragged me to all the restaurants he couldn't afford as a penniless student on his long-ago junior year abroad, and I thought Tasca de Plata's were nearly all spot-on. Four fat shrimp mellowed out in an earthenware bowl of garlic butter; a plate of sautéed potatoes dusted with smoked paprika contrasted with bits of chorizo; rotund green olives had Spanish anchovies swimming through their midsection; boquerones en vinagreta, slender silvery anchovies marinated in vinegar, waited to be popped in the mouth whole in one quick bite. A plate of anemic tomatoes had me pining for August; still, grilling and topping them with goat cheese helped to overcome their seasonal deficiencies.
My husband tried to describe chipirones en su tinta (whole baby squid in its ink) to the waitress, who seemed unfamiliar with Spanish food and was most comfortable taking orders by the numbers. She came back with a dish that was not what we'd hoped for, though not bad - strips of calamari steak, lightly battered, fried, and quite tender. Oh well. In the serrano ham croquettes, the renowned cured ham was diced, bound with béchamel sauce, and rolled in bread crumbs before being deep fried. The result was a crunchy nugget that opens up to a creamy filling, although I would have welcomed more intense serrano flavor. The house tapas plate was a respectable array of manchego cheese, serrano ham, and mild Spanish chorizo. The manchego lacked that distinct saltiness and tang, or maybe the slices were so thin I couldn't grab hold of the flavor. The single greatest shortcoming of a tapas night here was the bread, a sliced spongy baguette in a basket with little packs of butter.