1100 Pike St.
Seattle WA 98101
No Salsa Tonight, it's all Tango...Tapas!
By: Bryan R
Just a hop and a skip from the heart of downtown Seattle is a venture into Spanish cuisine that offers quality, variety and delicious homemade sangria. From the exterior, the most remarkable quality of Tangos Tapas is the incredibly tall and expansive windows which, from the inside, provide fantastic views of life outside. Many of the windows face downtown Seattle, and as the sun retreats the city lights up offering a pleasant cityscape view that compliments a meal nicely.
It's equally pleasant on the inside; the interior is rather stylish and features vaulted ceilings and a tasteful color scheme. Long, elegant curtains hang from the window and pieces of modern art dot the walls. Although there are industrial-themed design elements such as exposed piping and a somewhat minimalist lighting style, much of the furniture and many of the fixtures are made from natural materials resulting in a pleasant mix of styles. Even on a Monday night, Tangos Tapas brought in a decent-sized crowd that was a mixture of younger working professionals and older businesspeople which helped to create a cheerful and amiable atmosphere. However, it could get slightly loud when sitting in the more open areas--if you want to have a quite conversation, ask if a corner table is available.
Enjoying tapas, much like enjoying dim sum, is definitely best enjoyed in a group setting. The tapas menu is broken into several different categories including vegetarian, chicken, and seafood. We recommend that you mix it up to sample a variety of flavors. In our case, we conferred with our server--who was incredibly helpful and cheerful--to make sure that we sampled the spectrum of what Tangos Tapas had to offer and to ensure that we wouldn't accidentally order too much or too little. When enjoying tapas this can be a common problem because portion sizes can vary dramatically and prices dont perfectly correlate to quantity. After having settled on several different tapas, the dishes steadily began to make their way to our table.
The first dishes to arrive were the Queso Azul($8.50) and Grilled Asparagus (seasonal). Resembling a blue cheese souffl, the Queso Azul was served with a small crown of berries and a drizzled with port. This novel juxtaposition of flavors resulted in an instant favorite for the evening. The souffl was light, tender and remarkable savory. Next came the slightly blackened, grilled asparagus that was marinated in a spicy pepper sauce with just the right amount of kick.
Following the asparagus we sampled the Pastel de Chocula ($10) a Chilean corn and meat pie with eggs, raisins and Chilean cream. Our reviewers had mixed feelings about this dish and while no one out-and-out disliked it, a few reviewers thought it was slightly under-whelming in light of the tastiness of the other tapas and the slightly grisly quality of the meat used in the pastel. After the Pastel de Chocula, we ordered the quince and coriander encrusted Grilled Lamb ($19) served with grilled butternut squash. The lamb was rich, highly marbled but a touch on the soft (read mushy) side and didn't have the best mouth-feel. The butternut squash, however, was tasty enough to almost be a separate tapa.
To top the meal off, we ordered the Paella del Mar ($46) which offered a hearty combination of seafood including prawns, scallops, mussels and crab served atop a heaping pile of aromatic rice flavored with saffron, paprika and peppers. The shellfish was fresh and flavorful and the portions were generous. In fact, the portions were so generous that this dish should only be enjoyed in groups of three or more. The only downside to this dish was its hefty cost.
For drinks, a few of us ordered the house sangria and found it tasted wonderfully fresh but slightly on the sweet side (possibly as a result of using fresh fruit) and packed a bit of punch. Another reviewer, Trish, sampled the caipirinha, a classic mixed drink made of Brazilian rum muddled with limes and sugar on ice. It was a pleasant drink reminiscent of a mint julep or a mojito. Both are recommendable with the sangria slightly edging out the caipirinha.
After a short break we decided to enjoy some dessert; first up was the famous El Diablo ($10), a bittersweet portion of dark chocolate mousse topped with thick whipped cream, chocolate powder, cayenne pepper and a handful of spicy almonds. Initially, the cayenne pepper seemed like an odd addition to the dessert but its presence was light and offered a small kick in the aftertaste. This dessert was immensely enjoyable but rather rich, so in the end it took our entire group helped finish it off. Next we tried the Lime Flan (seasonal) and found it to be a light and pleasantly cooling in the warm summer night. And every reviewer noted that the dessert was sweet, but not too sweet, and it retained the subtle flavors of vanilla, lime and a bit of pineapple.
Overall, the portions and quality of the meal were good but on the expensive side. However, since tapas are hard to come by in Seattle, it can be worth the splurge from time to time. Dress is semi-casual and reservations are definitely advisable. And if you ask nicely, you may be able to get a table with a beautiful view of downtown Seattle. Enjoy!
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