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Fantastic Tapas: Curate, Asheville

24 Jan

Curate is one of the top restaurants in downtown Asheville. If you’re in the area, perhaps to visit the gorgeous Biltmore Mansion, I highly recommend dinner at Curate. It’s a long space, with a bar down one side, and tables for four on the other, opening up to a dining area at the back. The name “Curate” means “cure yourself”… and it’s true, if you’re not in a terrific mood when you step in the doorway, you will be when you’ve taken the first few bites of your meal.

For a small party of 2 or 3 people, I definitely recommend sitting at the bar, to get a great view of the open kitchen (a great way to impress a date 😉 Watch charcuterie plates being assembled, potatoes and eggplant being fried, and cocktails being mixed.

DSC01390For a small party of 2 or 3 people, I definitely recommend sitting at the bar, to get a great view of the open kitchen (a great way to impress a date 😉 Watch charcuterie plates being assembled, potatoes and eggplant being fried, and cocktails being mixed. For larger parties, make a reservation! 

It’s no surprise that this restaurant is busy: look at these beautiful and delicious tapas!

Curate: Butternut squash soupButternut squash soup (Crema de Calabaza) – deliciously smooth

Curate: grilled octopusPulpo a la Gallega – octopus served served with olive oil and potato puree, and sprinkled with Spanish paprika

DSC01399Chicken croquettes

DSC01402Canelones de carne – described as “Spain’s gift to Italy”, it’s a unique, delicate pasta filled with pork, beef, and chicken liver in a creamy bechamel sauce and topped with manchego cheese.

Curate: eggplantBerenjenas la Taberna – fried eggplant drizzled with honey and sprinkled with rosemary

Curate: calamari sandwichBocata Calamares – calamari on a fresh baguette – a delicious and filling sandwich!

DSC01409Chisatorra con pure de patatas – grilled chorizo with potato puree

Curate: spinach with pine nuts and raisinsEspinacas a la Catalana – sauteed spinach, apples, raisins, with pine nuts – a simple, yet elegant dish.

The Final Word: With delicious food and attentive service in a bustling atmosphere, dinner at Curate was one of my most enjoyable dining experiences yet!

Info: Curate, 11 Biltmore Avenue, Asheville, NC 28801 USA
Cúrate on Urbanspoon

Much Ado About Toro, Boston

25 Jan

A search for Boston’s best restaurants brings up Toro. After a foodie friend recommended the Spanish restaurant, my boyfriend and I decided to give it a try. Toro does not accept reservations, so we arrived relatively early – at 5 PM on a Sunday evening. We waited for a table, eagerly anticipating the delicious tapas to come. 15 minutes later, we are seated at two bar stools facing the front window, overlooking the patio. All the tables inside were filled, with empty seats available only at long communal tables. Here’s how our evening went:

5:20 PM: Our glasses of water arrive, and we wait hungrily, hoping to be able to place our order.

5:40 PM: Finally, our waitress comes to take our order.

Toro - tuna belly6:00 PM: After what feels like a neverending wait, our tapas begin to arrive slowly, one by one. The ventresca (tuna belly) arrives first, as one lonely serving – two slices of tuna on one toasted slice of bread, and topped with celery. We awkwardly try to cut this thing into two pieces. This dish is saved only by the yummy tomato tapenade that had soaked into the bread.

IMAG1481Pork meatballs are juicy yet airy, melt-in-your mouth, flavourful goodness.

Toro - stewI really enjoyed the Catalan seafood stew (suquet marisco) with its complex flavours, full of lobster and clams.

IMAG1483Empanadas have a crispy corn shell and a soft interior of potatoes and chicken. They are served with a fine  green tomatillo salsa and light mayo.

IMAG1484The smokey flavour of the smoked duck leg is complemented by the sweetness of a quince glaze.

IMAG1486-1My favourite dish of the night was probably the beef check – it was tender and melted in my mouth, served with a cold farro salad with radish.

IMAG1487Lubina a la Sal, a salt-crusted Mediterranean bass is impressively presented. The whole fish is served on a plank, crusted with sea salt and herbs, and dotted inside with garlic cloves.

7:00 PM – We are finished eating and a busboy takes our plates away.

7:10 PM  – We request the check.

7:20 PM – Finally, the check is signed and we leave.

The Final Word: The food was delicious, but service felt incredibly slow, and it was difficult to get our waitress’ attention. Is Toro Boston’s best Spanish restaurant? Maybe, though Solea, just west of the city, gives Toro a good run for its money.

Info: Toro, 1704 Washington Street, Boston, MA, 02118 USA

Toro on Urbanspoon

Tasty Tapas West of Boston: Solea

20 Jan

Don’t let the slightly amateurish website fool you. Solea (388 Moody Street, Waltham, MA) is a classy restaurant and tapas bar. The restaurant is very large, but is divided into several more intimate sections. Service is friendly, and the food is great.

The large beef empanadas are delicious:

beef empanadas, Solea

Lamb meatballs are tender, served in a yummy truffle cream sauce. They are probably one of my favourite tapas. Scallops are also served in a cream sauce, so you can fill up quickly on the tapas – pace yourself!

Broccoli and cauliflower fritters are a nice alternative to fries. They are fluffy, bread-y croquettes; the presence of the cruciferous veggies is very subtle.

Pimiento de Piquillo (Shrimp and Crab Stuffed Piquillo Peppers):

Solea: Pimiento de Piquillo, Shrimp and Crab Stuffed Piquillo Peppers

One of the less satisfying tapas is the lobster raviolis. They are underwhelmingly plain and don’t have much filling – but I feel this way about the lobster ravioli served at most restaurants.

The Lomo de Buey a las Frutas entrée is to die for. The melt-in-your-mouth beef tenderloin dish, served with sides of fries and sautéed beans, easily serves two (or more, if you’ve already indulged in many tapas). The unique flavour of the cream brandy sauce is addictive, and the figs and apricots complement the beef perfectly. I will return to Solea just for this lomo!

Lomo de Buey a las Frutas

Solea Restaurant and Tapas Bar on Urbanspoon

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