Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tapas at Tintos Spanish Restaurant

Tintos Spanish Restaurant & Wine Bar is a new Spanish restaurant in the River Oaks Shopping Center. It serves mostly tapas.

My first visit was promising. The restaurant channels a Spanish vibe -- art featuring bulls, wines racks on the wall, with flashes of modern design. The wine list has a very good selection of Spanish wines. Plus the sherry list is much better than most Spanish restaurants. Sherry, after all, is the wine best suited to this food.

And the food is quite good.

Delicious small plates

The best dish I tried was caracoles andaluzes -- snails in a creamy broth along with artichokes and sun-dried tomatoes. The broth was full of flavor. And like a bowl of mussels, we couldn't stop dipping in bread. The snails were not served with shells. They had a nice, slightly chewy texture.

Pinchos de ternera were better than I expected. I am a fan of lamb, but so often skewers are dull. Yet these were served with a bright and delicious cilantro mint sauce.

Even a house salad, arugula with figs and cabrales cheese, was an interesting mix of flavors.

I also enjoyed a mixed plate -- the Montadito plate -- which includes toast points with various combinations of Spanish ingredients, such as quail egg over chorizo and piquillo pepper with blood sausage and spinach.

Is it authentic?

The menu has a wide variety of dishes Spanish ingredients that attempt to invoke the flavors of Spain.

Yet, like other Spanish restaurants in Houston, this is not a real tapas bar. That's not a criticism. Most, but not all, tapas bars in Spain are dives with a small menu. Most focus on drinks more than food. Many have a handful of great dishes. But some serve crap.

Houston's tapas restaurants -- Tintos, Rioja, Mi Luna -- are more ambitious. They have large dining rooms that seat dozens of people. Their menus try to encompass the full range of Spanish foods in a giant tapas menu -- something most real Spanish tapas bars would never do. They also try to appeal to Houstonian tastes. Most of the time the food works. Sometimes it doesn't.

My first impression is that the food at Tintos works. It might even rival Rioja, the best Spanish restaurant in Houston..

Just don't call it a tapas bar.


Tom C. said...

I agree with you 100% about Rioja. It is one of my favorite Houston restaurants. Authentic old-school Spanish tapas, and a fairly interesting Spanish wine list. I wish I didn't have to drive so far outside the Loop, but it's worth it.

Jacey said...

I've been wanting to try Rioja, and your comments on it make me even more excited to do so.

Rouse House Concerts said...

Went there last week. Have to give it an A for effort. We had the Gambas al Ajillo (Jumbo shrimp sautéed in white wine garlic sauce) and Caracoles Andaluzes: (Snails with roasted artichokes, tomatoes al sol, lemon butter, and herbed goat cheese). Both were very good. It took all I could to stop sopping bread in each of the sauces. And, bottles of wine priced at retail is a big plus.

It is second to Rioja, but that is says more about the outstanding quality of Rioja.

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