Tapeo 916 B Street San Rafael (415) 453-2849
We were hopeful when we discovered this tapas restaurant in San Rafael last year. After a less than successful lunch, however, we weren't in a rush to try it again. For a while it was closed during the day, but recently we noticed it had reopened. We kidded ourselves that maybe it had improved so, in generous mood, we decided to give it a second chance.
On being seated in the large, dour, empty restaurant, next to the window where a fat fly buzzed aimlessly in a successful attempt to irritate us, we had the eerie feeling we might be playing out a scene in Psycho. The disheveled-looking proprietor did nothing to dispel our uneasiness at being the only customers as he served us with a intense directness that made us feel uncomfortable. The impression we get is that he covers the front of house and the kitchen too. Because the lunch-hour-clock was ticking it was just as well he had no other patrons to attend to, but whilst his undivided attention was a relief time wise, his attention to making great-tasting food was obviously lacking.
This time we were served the plate of the complimentary yucca chips trumpeted on the menu that were absent on our previous visit. They were greasy and unastounding, but they kept my fingers busy as I nervously anticipated the food we'd actually ordered.
Patates Bravas which were wonderful, and Tapeo's saving grace on our last visit, are described as lightly fried baby potatoes with spicy roasted bell pepper emulsion. This time they were not even freshly cooked, they were simply reheated so instead of being light nd crispy, they were chewy, stale and soft. The strong, concentrated sauce, this time, drowned the potatoes.
Fred ordered 'Pan con tomate y jambon Serrano' - toasted baguette with tomato, olive oil & serrano, He really disliked this on our previous visit, but I think he had forgotten quite how much. This time round, it wasn't quite as bad as before - at least there wasn't burnt garlic stuck to the toast - but the bread they use is very standard. It is a white, tasteless, cardboard bread. This is a dish, that with the use of quality ingredients, shouldn't be too hard to get at least half right. Unfortunately Tapeo gets it all wrong.
Chipirones - squid stuffed with crabmeat - were just fine. The squid was tender and the crabmeat was tasty enough.
The consistency is just too lacking at this place for me to give Tapeo a 'third time lucky' chance as a paid critic would do. To be honest, this place actually gives me the creeps and someone would actually have to pay me to get me back through its doors again.