I saw a note in the Arizona Republic that the new Tapas Papa Frita restaurant was finally opening in SouthBridge. For those who have lived in Phoenix for a long time, that's welcome news. My family and I went there on Sunday for my dad's birthday and were very pleased. The menu was extensive and included two pages of tapas and soups, several main courses, paella, and desserts. We decided to each start with soup, then split several tapas and one order of paella valenciana, and of course finish with dessert.
First things first - Sangria:
The traditional red sangria was tasty and had many cubes of fruit in it. It wasn't particularly strong, but it was very pleasant and refreshing.
Bread: Hot, crusty, and dense little rolls that went well with the aioli served with them, and were perfect for dunking into various sauces to scoop up all of the goodness. The server was very attentive and refilled the basket as needed.
My mother and I both got gazpacho, while my dad opted for the Ajo Blanco. My mom loved her gazpacho, while I found mine a little too salty. The Ajo Blanco was lovely, though - a creamy cold garlic soup with thinly sliced almonds floating above submerged grapes. I'd get that next time.
Queso Manchego: Better than the average, with lots of thickly sliced triangles of quality manchego cheese, served room temperature so you got the full flavor and texture.
Jamon Serrano: Thinly sliced, with just a tiny bit of oil, and fully flavored. Not at all dried out, which can sometimes happen if the kitchen isn't attentive enough.
Tigres: Five big mussels in a spicy, tomato-based sauce. The sauce was so full of flavor that my dad kept it next to his plate all night and cleaned it out with his bread. This was a bit hit.
Pincho Moruno: This was a brilliant dish. Two small skewers of lamb in a Moroccan sauce slightly reminiscent of curry, but with its own unique flavor. If we'd known how good it was going to be, we might have ordered more.
Txistorra (Chee-STO-ra): A hard Spanish sausage cooked in oil, garlic, and sherry. Not as strong and spicy as I expected, but full of good flavor.
Solomillo de Cerdo con Tocino: I had high expectations after the description of pork tenderloin wrapped in bacon and cooked with almonds and spices, but while this dish packed in the pork flavor, it didn't have the depth that the other dishes had. It was good but not great, and made me wish we'd tried something else instead.
After all of our soup, tapas, and bread, there was definitely enough of the paella to fill up all three of us. It was a substantial portion, packed with chicken, shrimp (heads and shells and all), mussels, clams, and some more of the txistorra sausage. It was flavorful and yellow with saffron and spices. I made sure to go in after everyone was served and get the browned pieces off the bottom of the pan.
Crema Catalana: Described as Catalan creme brulee with berries, this was no traditional creme brulee. It was actually vanilla bean ice cream with a crunchy crust of bruleed sugar on top, and sliced strawberries both on top and as a bottom layer. Once I got over my surprise, I really enjoyed it (but I love ice cream). My mom also got it, and was disappointed.
Pastel de Avellana Americana: Described as hazelnut cheesecake, this was also a surprise. It was more of a mousse, and was served in a glass rather than by the slice. It had quince paste and some cream on top. My dad loved it, though, and cleaned out the glass.
Coffee: They weren't set up yet for decaf coffee, but my dad got a cup of regular and was satisfied.
For all of the food that we got, including a pitcher of sangria and desserts (one was comped for my dad's birthday), the price was very reasonable - just over $100.
The service was attentive and friendly, and we felt very welcome. Some of the folks there were actually at the original Tapas Papa Frita many years ago! The restaurant is open late, with live music in the evenings.
I can definitely say that Tapas Papa Frita is back and hasn't skipped a beat. Great food and some interesting surprises as well! The only minor misses for me were the gazpacho and the Solomillo de Cerdo, and my mom was bothered by the inaccurate descriptions of the desserts, but we all left stuffed and very happy. If you miss Tapas Papa Frita, or just want some great Spanish food, I recommend that you give it a try before the word gets out.
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