Sunday, April 19, 2009

Restaurant Review: Ocho (Tapas Anyone?)

It is after 6 pm and hours before supper time. In Spain or Latin America supper is not served until after 9 pm. What to do? To fill the long gap between the meals of lunch and supper, a late afternoon snack called tapas are feasted on. Tapas are small plates of food, similar to hors d'oeuvres, piled high on little dishes.  Tapas which literally means "lid" or "cover" comes from a tradition started hundreds of years ago in Spain. When you went to a Spanish Inn and ordered wine, it was the custom to cover the glass with a piece of bread to keep the flies out. Soon, inn keepers became more elaborate and started putting piece of food on top of the bread. In time the bread was replaced with a dish. 
One of my favorite restaurants rights now in Seattle, is the very small and quaint Ocho restaurant in Ballard. Walking in, it is very crowded. Because it is so small! But this is how the owners intend it to be. Half restaurant and half bar it is fashioned after the popular tapas bars in Spain.  The owners got the idea after backpacking across the country and wanted to bring a version of the authentic food to Ballard. With a crowd pleasing menu and conversation friendly atmosphere, it is sure to please. The menu is scribbled on a large chalk board hung on the wall and the music ranges from dusty Texas folk and blues to spanish guitar. I ordered a glass of sangria roja and three tapas, which seemed to curve my appetite as well as the friend that was dining with me.  The patatas bravas, fried potatoes with aioli and a spicy brava sauce, were delicious.  The drunken goat cheese croquettes were very flavorful, because they were deep fried and served with a roasted red pepper sauce. And lastly, we had broccoli sautéed with red pepper flakes, pine nuts, and garlic. The food and atmosphere alike are worth the trip. In fact, it will even make you feel like you've just begun that long awaited vacation...

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