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David Sloo | Aug 4, 200612:12 PM     3

Iberia has been around for something like 23 years, first in Portola Valley and currently in Menlo Park, right across from the Caltrain Station. The restaurant is midrange in prices (starters as low as $4, mains orbiting $22), and, importantly, there are many small dishes, from tiny tapas at about $4 through appetizers and small plates. Yes, you can order just a small dish for your main course.

The tapas menu is available principally in the bar, and the quality is uniformly high for a series of dishes that range from marinated white smelts to croquettes.

At last night's birthday dinner, I had escabeche de pescado. The fish was almost certainly halibut, although I didn't ask. I found the marinade easily detectable and slightly sour underneath the olive-oil lightly fried outside. Served with a single, sliced potato, generous red pepper slices, and outstanding cooked button mushrooms.

My mom had a leg of lamb full plate: very minty, thinly sliced lamb with a lot of lamb flavor, balanced by the mint. It is hard to believe that the mint was just in a sauce, as it permeated the meat. Served with unexceptional but non-mushy steamed broccoli and crisp, non-greasy shoestring potatoes.

Jose Maria Relinque's restaurant is charming, with a large patio surrounding a live oak, several rooms to break up the space. (I know, these are not chowhound matters; but it's a good place.)

The bill is marked up about 28% to cover the tip and the tax.

Iberia, 1026 Alma, Menlo Park. (650) 325 8981.

Iberia

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