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The boy and I went on a proper date Wednesday evening: having been finally released from opera rehearsals (and having just completed 8 of this semester’s 20 credits) gave us an opportunity to venture to Casa Tapas. Spotting a funky mural on the side of the building, we arrived at 7:30 or so, and were placed at the bar because of our sans reservations. Certainly a good sign, if business thrived late on a Wednesday evening.

Standard bread bowl, and olives served in a demitasse: warm? (sorely lacking in knowledge base regarding olives, I did a quick search on “warm olives” when I came home: they were certainly endorsed by the NY Times in 1987.) Warm is good! They were pretty damn tasty, and I’m not usually an olive-out-of-hand eater (the boy even less so).

Their rendition of a “Spanish Caesar” was interestingly done with greens in lieu of romaine: served with a toasted slice of herbed baguette, and a surprise cherry tomato in the bottom. Do they do Caesars in Spain? We were unsure of the dressing’s constituents (as the salad was severely underdressed) but were quickly distracted by the garlic saffron soup. Served piping hot (and still bubbling), it sported big chunks of fresh croutons. Stoneware definitely has its heat retaining benefits! In our excitement, lips and tongues were slightly burned, but no matter: the soup was fantastic, adorned with little bits of tomato and parsley. Note to self: splurge on saffron (time to do another run to Vieille Europe).

The tapas ordered were: 1) Grilled sardines with cumin – I’ve always loved sardines, and cumin’s my new favourite spice as of 2007. It was subtle on the actual sardines, but the paired julienned zucchini/red pepper salad was very satisfyingly cumin-ed. 2) Filet mignon of lamb done in an almond-tomato sauce and colourful peppers – wow. Simply, wow. 3) Artichoke served with aioli – surprisingly citrus and hinting of orange, the aioli was an intriguing pairing with a vegetable that has yet to grace its presence in our own kitchen. Sidestepping the orange-garlic-mayo topping, the boy raved of its grilled texture, while I tried to parse flavour combinations uncommon to my pallette.

The waiter then suggested desert to us, and deciding on a more Spanish theme, we tried their churros instead of the crème brûlée. Sweet, deep fried goodness! I suppose each culture has its own rendition of fried dough: Spain decided on pleasantly dense batons (piped directly into the hot oil?). A demitasse of chocolate sauce was served on the side; I stared sadly at the remainder when no churros remained, longing to spoon the rest in my mouth. I suppose that would have been imprudent.

I certainly look forward to tasting the other menu items; until then, we shall have to try our own rendition of garlic saffron soup.

Casa Tapas on Urbanspoon

Casa Tapas
266 Rachel Est, between St. Laurent and St Denis

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Spanish cuisine? Yes please! Check out Zumaia, on the corner of Guilbault and St Laurent, just south of des Pins. Sardines, octopus, scallops, beef tartare, chevre stuffed roasted red pepper, duck and mushrooms with a sauce of cassis, paella, and truly professional and excellent service. I would’ve swiped a Spiegelau tumbler or two (or three or four?), plus a handful of Riedel wineglasses, if it weren’t for the great service and good food: I’ll have to look for a terrible restaurant that knows their glassware.

Speaking of Spanish, dinner tonight = homemade paella. I confess, I’m rather excited.