In the guts of one of my favorite but now defunct Belltown happy hour spots lives a restaurant that is sort of an anomaly here in Seattle. What used to be Cascadia with it's delicious truffle butter topped mini burgers and Douglas Fir martinis now resides the lovely new Spanish restaurant Taberna Del Alabardero. Although the decor hasn't changed much (it's still feels a little like an airplane hanger with curtains) the food sure has. Taberna specializes in traditional Spanish fare including paellas (served tableside) and a variety of delicious tapas. The food was amazing but it was the service that won me over. Something you don't tend to find in Seattle is great service. Sure, it's gotten much better but it still tends to be very casual. Not that I mind casual service but when you eat at a fine dining restaurant it feels especially deluxe to be pampered a little bit instead of the usual disdain you receive for asking for your water to be refilled. The staff was flown in from Spain and the differences in their fine dining culture truly shows. Our servers were top notch and you can tell that they take serious pride in what they do.
Taberna is probably the most authentic Spanish dining experience you'll find in the Pacific Northwest. It's simple but elegant food cooked with passion and skill. This is no knock on Txori or Harvest Vine (which sadly may no longer be with us for much longer). I love chef Joseba Jimenez's food and I truly hope his divorce does not destroy him and his beautiful restaurants. His food is Basque with a modern feel to it. Taberna feels like like old world Spain (and not in a stuffy Inquisition kind of way).
So Kelleen took me to Taberna for my birthday and we started off with a bottle of one of my favorite cavas, Mont Marcal brut rose. I try to always have a bottle of this in my fridge for those fancy sort of times. I don't know if you can fall in love with a bottle of wine but I think I may have. The chef somehow heard it was my birthday and he sent out a plate of Tortilla Española de Patatas. It reminded me how good an omelette with potatoes can be. Very silky and creamy. After swallowing the small plate whole we decided to start with a bunch of tapas. We ordered the Cazuela de Chorizo (chorizo poached in olive oil), Croquetas de Jamón del Iberico (Iberico ham croquettes), Patatas Bravas (fried potatoes with a spicy tomato sauce), and my favorite dish Rotos con Virutas de Iberico (Broken fried eggs over French fries with Iberico ham shavings). Everything was perfectly spiced and delicious. The only complaint I have is on myself for not noticing the Padron Peppers on the menu. They are one of my favorite thing in the world and I overlooked them. There is no justice in the world. Anyway, I'm finally starting to get over it. For our main course we ordered the Paella de Langostinos y Ajetes con Ali-Oli (Saffron Rice with King Prawns and Spring Garlic Served with Ali-Oli). The rice was cooked perfectly al-dente in a fragrant saffron and shellfish stock. The giant prawns were moist and fresh with just the right amount of bitterness from the spring onions. I could eat this paella for every meal, everyday, for the rest of my life. I decided that instead of another bottle of cava we should get a pitcher of sangria. It was filled with sour apples and not overly sweet. The sangria was the perfect drink for the second half of our meal. For dessert we got the Torrija Semiliquida Crujiente con Sorbete de Platano y Aromas de Menta y Citricos (Crunchy, Semi-liquid French Toast with Banana). I was slightly terrified by the description, trying to picture what "crunchy, semi-liquid" would be like but it was just that. The French toast was crunchy on the outside and moist and liquidy on the inside. The banana ice cream was fired too. This desert kind of blew my mind. It was also brought to me with a candle and happy birthday written on it. I almost cried. I felt truly spoiled by such a lovely meal. I will definitely be returning to Taberna Del Alabardero. It doesn't take much to make people feel important. Perhaps this is the next step in Seattle's culinary growth. A little pride in what you do goes a long way.