The first place we’ve decided to go to to do this “research” is Patanegra. This place has been around since forever for a reason: it’s good. But how good is it? I guess we will know at the end of it all. Since small plates require ordering many items and thus, many dollars, my husband and I have recruited another couple to go on this adventure with us.
We have a reservation. An early one, really, 6:30. When we arrived, there were a few people sitting at the bar, and two other tables. We were greeted and seated promptly. Upon reviewing the menu, the standard items can be found here. I like that it is a standard list of standard Spanish tapas items; the gent who served us was obviously the owner and obviously Spanish. That immediately gives it a bit of cred in my book. He is friendly and lists off some delightful specials, we start with white wine from their extensive list of reasonably priced wines, along with the standard beginner items: chorizo platter ($14), assortment of cheeses ($12) and the cornerstone item that ought to be on every tapas list: tortilla (large, $9).
The tortilla comes out first, cold, the way I like it. One thing I like to do when going for small plates, is to anchor it with a more hearty item. The tortilla is such an item. I wish that there were an aioli to go along with it, but no matter, we are off to a great start. The large gives you 4 wedges and lucky for us, there were 4 of us, so it worked out fine.
The next items to appear are the chorizo and the cheese.
Although I’m pretty sure there are 4 different meats listed on the menu, I’m also pretty sure that only 3 different kinds appear on the board. They were tasty. It’s difficult, when it comes to salamis: there are many fantastic ones out there that blow my mind, that I cannot say this is the best I’ve had, but it is really solid, nonetheless. I just wish there were more of it. This is by no means a slight against this plate, it was good for sure, but my standards are getting pretty high these days.
We also dig into the cheeses. Pictured above is $12 worth of cheese. It is not the best value in cheese plates I have ever had, but it certainly isn’t the worst. I’ve been straight up offended by the amount of cheese offered up in other places, and not in a good way. Knowing how much cheese I can buy for my money, I wish they were a little more generous here. There were sliced pieces of stale-ish baguette, mildly toasted to go along with. The cheeses were nice. I liked the selection. I couldn’t quite hear what they were, as the place is starting to fill up and get pretty vibrant at this point.
We ordered our next round: ham wrapped dates ($14), and salt cod fritters ($12).
These came out pretty smoking hot. I must confess that these are not usually my fave, but the sauce that came along with was a bit spicy and a bit delicious. They are also a good size, but sadly, as you can see, there are 5 fritters and 4 of us. It always seems to go this way. Oh well. We all had one. One of my fellow diners cut the last one in half, not able to bring himself to be “that guy.” The other half sat there and grew cold (until I broke down and ate it later).
Along come the dates, which again, I’m not usually a huge fan of, but am willing to give it a shot. These did not really change my mind. Here lies a plate full of ham wrapped dates, they did not all get eaten. Maybe they really were not great, or maybe there were too many of them.
At this point, the entire place is bustling. There might be one or two open tables, but that’s about it. Our server/owner is the only person who is the server in the place, and he is hustling from table to table. We have now run out of wine and could become desperate if something doesn’t happen soon. Luckily, my secret prayer for wine was heard, and he appears. This time we order red, along with the special empanadas ($10) and the ling cod ($15).
Ah! 4 hot empanadas arrive in short order. There may only be one guy working the floor (along with the hostess, who fills waters, takes plates), but the kitchen keeps cranking it out. The same sauce that we received with the fritters accompanies the empanadas and we are all glad of this. These were a delight. Too bad they are the “special” and not a regular item. We gobbled them up post haste. Fabulous.
The ling cod special also arrives.
I wish I could cook fish as well as this was done. It was perfectly flaky but not over or under cooked, which is usually where I get all sorts of sketched out. The fish was resting on a nice ratatouille, with a mild red pepper sauce on top. The fish had a nice salty seasoned taste to it. I was happy.
At this point, we ordered the creme brûlée for desert (not pictured). The crust was nice, but it was chilled, which wasn’t my thing. A bit creamy and sweet. It almost seemed like custard instead.
There is an espresso machine on the premises, so we were able to get macchiatos to go with dessert. Those were nice. Although coffee in this town is fantastic, too many places in town are only doing drip or french press. I’m getting sick of people not investing in a good machine and short cutting it by charging me big dollars for french press coffee. It’s not novelty; it’s cheap. I have that when I go camping.
Our total bill for 4 people was around $250, which included 2 bottles of wine. We had a lovely time, the ambience was nice. The service, although it fell off for an almost critical moment, was knowledgeable and engaged. The food, was quality, although some items were a bit smaller than I’d have liked, and some may not have been my first item choice. But all being said, I would and will go again. That says something. There are definitely items that we did not get that I would like to go back for.