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Thursday, April 19, 2012

España Tapas House's True Spanish Food

Small-plate dining finds its roots

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Many restaurants serve a version of tapas, the small-plate concept that originated in Spain, but most wander far away from tapas' roots in the Iberian Peninsula. Don Quijote was true to form, but it closed a few years ago. With the recently opened España Tapas House, at last Milwaukee diners have another place to visit for tapas based on the Spanish model.

Located in the former Butch's Clock Steak House, España's interior feels familiar. The booths and the bar have changed little, but the tile floors and red tablecloths add the necessary Spanish feel.

España Tapas House's menu is extensive, with tapas divided into two categories: those served warm and those served at room temperature or a bit chilled. In addition, you will find pinchos that are even tinier—true finger food. Paellas and entrees that are more substantial round out the menu.

The pinchos are quite inexpensive. For example, the pollo frito is just 75 cents. Like the other options, pollo frito is attractive for more than just the price. A fried chicken wing is served with tricolor peppers and onion sauce—a tidbit to whet the appetite.

After trying the pinchos, move on to the tapas. Aceitunas rellenas ($8), olives stuffed with anchovies and finished with sherry vinaigrette, seem destined to be paired with a martini. Croquetas de jamon ($5) have bits of Serrano ham and Manchego cheese. The best Serrano ham competes with Italian prosciutto and French Bayonne. One of the larger tapas is the calamares a la plancha ($7), a plate of squid cooked with olive oil, white wine, lemon juice, parsley and a generous dose of garlic. Accompanying this delightful dish is bread that can be used to sop up any remaining liquid. These are pure Mediterranean flavors.

Paellas often come in a pan that serves two, but here you will find single servings. Diners can choose from four paellas ($12-$16). Paella marina is served with calasparra, properly short-grained rice, and sea scallops with small clams and blue mussels in the shell. A few peas and diced carrots are also thrown into the mix. Order this paella with a small ensalada de España ($4.50), the house salad. It features assorted greens with roasted tomatoes, piquillo peppers, cucumbers, red onions, olives, almonds and crumbled goat cheese. The rioja vinaigrette makes this a fine starter course.

Entrees include seafood, beef and chicken. Lomo a la riojana ($18) is a piece of pork tenderloin wrapped in a paper-thin sheet of Serrano ham. It is served with roasted potatoes and a tomato sauce with sweet pepper, garlic and onion. This should inspire any carnivore.

Appropriately, the wine list is devoted to Spanish vintages. If the dining room is full, you can still sit at the bar, order some wine and sample a few pinchos.

Milwaukee finally has a fine Spanish restaurant to replace the departed Don Quijote. And remember that España is within walking distance of the Marcus Center, Bradley Center, Milwaukee Repertory Theater and Turner Hall Ballroom. This is a perfect spot for pre- or after-event dining.

España Tapas House

800 N. Plankinton Ave.

(414) 988-9468

$$-$$$

Handicap Accessible

espanamilwaukee.com