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February 28, 2014

Tapeo

A "tapeo" is Spain's version of a pub crawl. Typically a group of friends stops at one bar for snacks and drinks and then moves on to the next for more. At Tapeo restaurant in Montreal, however, it's probably a better idea to sit and stay a while, given that Montreal's tapas restaurants are few and far between.

Tapeo offers many traditional tapas, like tortilla, tartar de salmón, pulpo, croquetas de bacalao, fideos, secreto Ibérico, and patatas bravas in a comfortable setting.

The food

Usually I try (discreetly and without a flash) to take flattering pictures of the food at restaurants I blog about, but the lighting at Tapeo doesn't really accommodate this approach. Fortunately, the website of Tapeo presents good, accurate photos of the food. What's more, the restaurant posts helpful customer ratings.

The food is all good, but some dishes stand out much more than others. The tuna, served in a wonderful sauce is a favorite, as are the bacon wrapped scallops. The tomatoes on the vine, a combination of baked cherry tomatoes, basil, olive oil, and warm goat cheese, is also a winner. The beef short rib is served in a very generous portion and is one of the best deals on the menu. It's tasty, too.

The charcuterie and cheese plate, on the other hand, is a bit light on quantity and variety for the price, consisting only of a modest portion of some very thinly sliced, cured ham and one slice of cheese. A tapa of the day at my last visit, foie gras tourchon, was also a bit disappointing. There is lots of foie gras on menus in Montreal, and this version did nothing to set itself apart. Similarly, the crème catalane, essentially a crème brulée, has a nice texture and taste, but there's nothing really special about it.

The table service includes bread, oil, crispy fried shoestring potato, and an amuse bouche, which at my last dinner at Tapeo was a half a slice of chorizo topped with a stuffed olive. It paired well with my glass of Gran Coronas Penedès 2008, which has a nice, soft finish.

Overall, Tapeo is a solid choice for food. Be prepared to pay for quality, though. The majority of the tapas are priced between $8 and $15. While portion sizes are mostly generous for a tapas format, most groups will want to order 2 - 3 per person. With drinks and dessert, the bill has the potential to soar.

Ambiance

Tapeo is more upscale and has more table seating than a typical tapas bar does in Spain. In fact, tables covered with brown paper crowd the dark wooden floor, and there's additional seating in a private room close to the kitchen.

The dining room is open and large, but low lighting and soft music help to keep the space warm and inviting. One of the most striking design elements is the long, modern bar lit underneath with bright pink light. Another eye catching item is a painting of a bull fighter.

At many tapas bar in Spain, a small chalkboard behind the bar lists available tapas. Tapeo's nod to and twist on this tradition is to show menu items in circles that are symbolic of tapa plates on a large wall painted with chalkboard paint.

The general feel of the room is quite pleasant. I only wish that I could say the same for the service. I find it to be strangely cold and unwelcoming, but satisfactory in terms of pacing and getting items to the table.

The verdict

There is some great food at the popular Tapeo restaurant, but book ahead, don't expect the warmest of welcomes, and allow a good chunk of change for dinner.

Tapeo
511 Villeray
514-495-1999
Metro: Jarry
Parking: Street

Dress: Casual

Price: Allow $60 - $90 per person depending on hunger level and drink choices, including tax and tip.

Highlights: Tuna. Bacon wrapped scallops. Beef short rib. Many traditional Spanish tapas.

Tapeo on Urbanspoon

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