Tapeo 916 B Street San Rafael (415) 453-2849
Lunchtime visit, Friday November 5th 2004
Having heard a Spanish Tapas Lounge had made its way into downtown San Rafael, Fred and I eventually got round to making our way in that direction to try it out. We chose a Friday lunchtime and as we were pushed for time, hoped Tapeo would be able to deliver us a quick turn around. Once we arrived and were seated, we glanced around at the homely interior, free-standing wood burner, pretty orange walls decorated with attractive paintings and comfy looking lounge area with squooshy sofas. We were brought a glass of Sangria, a Tempranillo and it seemed like a good start.
Although we were one of only three tables seated, it quickly became clear that the gentleman who had greeted us, shown us to our table and brought us drinks was the only person working in the place. It almost became a comedy of errors as he would take an order and then rush out back to the kitchen to prepare the dishes. Luckily a friend of his, stopped by to deliver a package and was suddenly roped into being our waitress. She did a great job, with incredible patience and humour considering she didn't have a clue and wasn't expecting to be filling this role. We were aware of the situation so little problems along the way, a dirty napkin, a different wine the second time round, a wrong order, late delivery of cutlery, a corrected order that didn't match the menu description, all of these things which might normally have annoyed us were forgiven. We particularly appreciated that she understood we were in a hurry and pushed our order through as quickly as she could.
The tapas menu, Andalusian style, is divided into hot and cold dishes. A page of blurb describing Tapeo's philosophy and raison d'etre, also mentions that instead of a bread basked we would be offered Yucca chips. They sounded tasty so I was disappointed that none were ever forthcoming.
Tortilla de Patata Spanish potato & onion omelette 6
A warm slice of this filling eggy potato dish was served with a blob of mayonnaise and a red pepper puree (not show in the photograph). It was neither here nor there, fairly bland but comforting and filling. The puree definitely pepped it a notch and for me it was an adequate lunch dish although Fred turned his nose up at it after a mouthful or two.
Glazettas Tapeo Empanaditas of beef and pork with raspberry coulis 3.5
These were greasy little deep fried parcels filled with minced meat. A little soggy in regions where they would have been better crispy, they also tasted slightly sweet, even before being dipped in the intense jammy coulis. They were one of the cheapest things on the menu proving that a good price doesn't necessarily mean a good deal or a good meal.
Patates Bravas lightly fried baby potatoes with spicy roasted bell pepper emulsion 5.5
These potatoes defied their own description somewhat making them the most delicious thing we tasted at Tapeo. Less 'lightly fried' and more heavily roasted, these chunks of potato, (nothing 'baby' about them), were golden, crispy and crunchy on the outside and wonderfully soft on the inside. The sauce in which they were coated was no where near spicy, as described, but a welcome seasoning nonetheless.
Jamon Serrano con Manchego cured ham from Serrano with Spanish cheese 7.5
This was a wrong order but they kindly left the plate as a complimentary gesture. The serrano was excellent, slightly thicker and much dryer than proscuitto, Tapeo had sourced a really good ham. The bed of green leaves were drenched in an unsubtle, highly acidic balsalmic that made them uneatable. I wasn't in a cheese mood, and Fred prefers only cooked cheese, but I did try the manchego, which was tasty, crumbly and salty and looked very pretty thinly sliced and balanced on the top of the plate.
Pan con tomate y jambon Serrano toasted baguette with tomato, olive oil & serrano ham 6
This dish came later (no picture) as it was the one they'd missed from our order. It appeared with profuse apologies from our temporary waitress. I looked at it (a pile of bruschetta-style toasts with chopped tomatoes on top) and asked, "where's the ham?" They had forgotten it, so she rushed back to the kitchen returning seconds later with a couple of rolls of serrano plonked on the edge of the plate. Not what we had envisioned. Fred turned up his nose as he bit into one of the toasts. "This toast tastes like its been left in the fridge for a few days and it's covered in burnt garlic". Sure enough, on examining the underside of the toasts we discovered they were indeed covered in little black garlicky burnt bits. Disgusting. I didn't agree with Fred's 'left in the fridge' analysis, but the toast did have a strange, dry, crumbly texture, maybe as a result of the type of bread they'd used. We wouldn't order this again, no way. Next time we go back to Tapeo for a bowl of potatoes and that's it.
Fred took solace in a glass or two of Tempranillo 7 whilst I had a tall glass of the housemade red sangria 4. The sangria was way too sugary and sweet with mere hint of wine and no trace of liquor. It tasted like nothing more than a red fruit juice. Just as well, I had to rush back to a hard afternoon at work.
I would love to see this kind of place do well in San Rafael, but the owner really has to get his arse into gear to make that happen. The kind of amateur antics we witnessed on our visit are really not acceptable. We will probably give it another try sometime but if things haven't improved, especially in the area of service, it's going find its way onto our rejected restaurants pile pretty quick.
Footnote: We really appreciate the poor girl who quickly stepped in with such grace to be our waitress for the meal. I really hope, at the very least, she was allowed to take home the tips!