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Wednesday, 9 April 2014

True to Form at Bodega Tapas & Wine Bar

Words come and go. Their tenure might last for decades, or even centuries, but words can and will fall out of favour more rapidly than they accrued widespread usage. Remember when people used to say that things were "rad"? Or "far out"? Slang terms in particular, once their era has trundled across the landscape, merged with the distance horizon and gone the way of the VCR, the Edsel, and the chasmosaurus, sound almost laughably quaint.

Culinary terms, in a textbook example of parallel evolution, vacillate through epochs of fashion and repose. The word "tapas" constitutes a case study. Few terms, as of late, have been splashed across menus with such self-assured verve, as if widespread usage will ensure longevity. Traditionally, "tapas" refers to a specific genre of snacks prevalent within Latin-Mediterranean cultures. This word spiked in popularity over the past decade or so, and now one needn't look far for items served "tapas-style." A consequence of this ephemeral popularity, though, is that true tapas - like one might encounter on the Iberian peninsula - are hard to find.


Bodega Wine Bar and Tapas fills this niche just in time. Bodega inhabits the ground floor space of downtown stalwart Sabor Divino. It occupies a laid-back, rustic space replete with bricks, wood, and a traditional Portuguese rooster. True-to-form tapas live here. An alliterative name is just part of Piri Piri Prawns' appeal. Here, an impossibly plump trio of shrimp sport charred tails, the smoke of which weaves together mild flesh and fiery piri-piri chili-laced aioli.


Braised Pork Belly presents a perfect porcine cube. Strata of unctuously crispy fat alternate with seamlessly fragrant meat. It is an unabashed swine sandwich in all the best ways possible.


Patatas Bravas (foreground) and Piri-Piri Chicken (background) further the evening's theme of traditional Iberian-Lusitanian fare. Patatas Bravas are fingerling potatoes that veritably pop with taut, crisp skins to expose steaming, mealy mash. Very little dressing is required to adorn the spuds' innate and gentle flavour. Piri-Piri Chicken pairs zippy and torrid pepper aioli with fowl; delicious and perfectly cooked, though the sauce paired better with the aforementioned prawns.


Grilled Eggplant is a beautiful little package. A supple eggplant envelope cradles a mantle of tomato and an inner core of vibrant chevre. Pine nuts orbit nearby. It is compact, but does not compromise flavour in favour of portability.

Loose-handed application of the term "tapas" to anything small will eventually fade from the common consciousness, as is the inevitable fate of any trendy term. Fortunately, the deeper, original meaning of this descriptor will remain intact via the culinary craftwork of little spots like Bodega.


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