This past weekend I tried the tapas at Ramblas for the first time. Overall, I wasn't very impressed with the food. The tapas here fall into the same style as that found at Cesar or ThirstyBear (the latter run by the same folks as Ramblas): neatly prepared, clean, attractive food. It's different from places like Alegrias or Esperpento that serve tapas that are somewhat sloppier, unfussy, and--based on my few trips to the Iberian peninsula--more like one would find at a bar in Spain. One is not necessarily better than the other--I've had very good and very bad meals of both styles--but they definitely add up to different experiences.
While none of the tapas were bad, few were good enough that I'd order again. Prices are high; out of line with the quality and/or portion sizes.
Dishes that weren't very successful were the pulpo (tiny, tough nuggets of octopus flesh), tortilla española (watery taste and super thin disks of potato), piquillos (rather bland) and sea bass (fairly tasteless fish, though the fingerling potatoes weren't too bad).
More enjoyable, but far from great, were the boquerones and the green beans. Pleasant nibbles but not "wow, that's good."
The best dish by far were the gambas al ajillo, though it made a poor first (visual) impression. Four headless and peeled shrimp--which looked like they had been plucked from the shrimp cocktail platters sold in the supermarkets--were in a clear, barely red, garlic-less oil. The shrimp turned out to be fine, but the oil was excellent: deeply layered with smokey, salty, garlicy, shrimpy, spicy flavors. The best part of the meal was sopping up all the oil with bread.
A full selection of ThirstyBear's beers are on tap, including their seasonal Winterbock, an enjoyable, dark, not too heavy, strong (7% alcohol) brew. Wine and liquor are also available.
My party of three arrived at about 9pm on a Friday night, sans reservations, were told we'd have to wait 45 minutes for a table, immediately found seats at the bar, and were seated at a table in 30 minutes. Drink and food service at the bar and the table were quick and efficient.
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