Tapas dining is a way of life and culture in Spain that brings friends and family together. Big on flavor and small in portions, tapas dishes are meant to be shared, offering you the ability to have a little taste of everything. The growing popularity of tapas bars in various cultural cuisines is significant here in Los Angeles, but finding one that suits your particular palate, party size and types of spirits can be all too overwhelming. This list has narrowed down five fantastic choices for a small plate experience in the area.
Tinto Tapas Espana
7511 Santa Monica Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90046
The menu at Tinto Tapas Espana celebrates the true taste of Spain. Start with the Tabla de Quesos, which includes four Spanish cheeses (Manchego, Idiazabal, Flor del Cadi and Mas Can Beia), Marcona almonds (popular from the Spanish and Mediterranean regions), quince paste, dried apricots, fig marmalade and fresh grapes. The Vieiras al Ajillo (jumbo scallops sautéed in garlic, white wine and parsley), Iberico al Cabrales (pork tenderloin medallions), and the Madjool Dates stuffed with Cabrales cheese and wrapped in smoked bacon are excellent nibbles. Pair these flavors with one of several Spanish wines offered. Tinto holds your hand through the wine menu, making several suggestions of foods best complemented by each type of wine. If you didn’t stuff yourself silly, let the chef prepare a plate of his choice of four dessert samples, which could include the Spanish churros, Flan Coco, Sorbete de Limon, Crema Catalana (a custard topped with caramel) or the chocolate tart with raspberry sauce.
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Next Door Tapas Lounge
11814 Ventura Blvd
Studio City, CA 91614
The contemporary and artsy ambiance at Next Door Tapas is just the right setting for that first date or for a birthday celebration. Although a staple on most tapas menus, the Assorted Cheese & Charcuterie Plate at Next Door is a standout. This plate comes packed with Pan Tomacat (toasted baguette rubbed with garlic, tomato and olive oil) and Spanish delicacies such as salchichon de vic, cantimpalo, soria, Pamplona and Serrano Ham. Don’t miss out on the Timbale De Salmon which is a cured-dill salmon with avocado seaweed salad. Also, the Salad in a Glass is a fun way to nibble your way through a meal. Try the Ensaladilla that comes filled with potato, carrots, peas, tuna and piquillos or the Goat Cheese Grapes Salad featuring red leaves, teardrop tomatoes and grapes wrapped with goat cheese and pistachios.
109 Santa Monica Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90401
A favorite among locals and visitors to Santa Monica, Bar Pintxo is steps away from checking out a beautiful West Coast sunset. Bar Pintxo is known for its tapas, platos, paellas and its new Gin & Tonic Bar, which is fashionable in Spain. If you are heading there for Happy Hour (Mon to Fri from 4 – 6:30 p.m. and Sat to Sun from 12 – 6:30 p.m.), you are invited to indulge in six tapas from the Happy Hour menu for only $6. Where to start? Serrano Jamon on grilled bread, Crimini Mushroom with Manchego, Piernas De Pollo (chicken drumette lollipops with Ximenez BBQ sauce), Hamburgesas Bar Pintxo (mini burgers with Tronchon Cheese, caramelized onions, and Guindilla Peppers), Huevos Rellenos con Vinagreta Vasca and Almejas con Manzanilla (Manilla Clams cooked in Manzanilla Sherry and Sofrito) are a few great options. Don’t only eat, but also drink as they do in Spain and try the Gin de Toronja y Tomillo con Tonica (Grapefruit-Thyme Infused Farmers Organic Gin & Tonic).
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9240 Culver Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232
Tapas with a Japanese spin, K-ZO is the choice restaurant for lunch small bites. Whether you bring a crowd with you to share or order for one, you will find satisfaction in the unique Asian-influenced flavors. K-ZO’s well-rounded cold and hot menu features its signature Tuna Carpaccio delivered on a plate of arugula, pecorino cheese and capers topped with an inventive truffle dressing and wasabi cream sauce; Whitefish Yuzu sashimi with yuzu pepper and citrus juice; Spicy Tuna Crispy on a baked brown rice cracker; Dynamite New Zealand Green Mussels baked with a special house sauce; Baked Pink Hotate (broiled scallops) and Shishito Pepper (sautéed Japanese chili pepper) – just to name a few. Its sushi menu is also available during lunch. And, if your office isn’t beckoning for your return, take your pick from K-ZO’s extensive sake bar – as there’s always a featured sake of the month.
46 E Colorado Blvd
Pasadena, CA 91105
Bar Celona is Pasadena’s go-to tapas bar. Modern in every way, Bar Celona mirrors an authentic European experience. The small plate menu features a wide selection of delicious choices including olives, oyster and cremini mushrooms, padron peppers and Spanish aged cheeses and cured meats. But don’t stop there – go for Bar Celona’s distinct tapas, which puts this restaurant on the must-return list. Its daily Empanada, Crispy Eggplant with honey and spiced yogurt, Tomato-Saffron paella cake, Whipped Salt Cod with potato on grilled bread and the homemade-style Vegetarian or Marinaera (seasonal shellfish) Paellas should not be missed.
Sheryl Craig embraces her passion for interesting finds and treasures in Los Angeles. A writer at heart, Sheryl’s background in journalism and public relations gives her the knack to meet new people, unveil new discoveries and share ideas. Motivated by a healthy lifestyle, she integrates that attitude into raising her two teenage daughters, and into every facet of her daily life. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.