It’s time you did as the Spanish do and embraced the fine art of tapas. The tradition began when servers in Spain used to cover beverages at outdoor restaurants and cafes, placing something salty on top, such as an olive, in order to encourage thirst. Now, however, these small morsels have become a culinary specialty in their own right, perfect for snacking or for a whole meal of interesting flavors and textures. Here are the Top 5 tapas restaurants in Phoenix where you can discover their value firsthand.
1 Tapas Papa Frita
Looking for tapas in Scottsdale? Everyone knows you have to go to Tapas Papa Frita. Chef Joseph Gutierrez and his staff prepare such excellent small plates as crab-stuffed peppers in saffron sauce, layered crab and eggplant tart, chorizo and ham in red wine sauce, calamari rings with club soda batter and garlic chicken casserole. All in all, you have more than 50 hot and cold tapas to choose from, as well as main dishes traditional to all different regions of Spain, making your experience just about as authentic as they come outside of the Iberian Peninsula.
2 Sens Asian Tapas and Sake Bar
Tapas may be traditionally Spanish, but they've become so popular that other cultures are adopting the idea and making them their own. One example is Sens Asian Tapas and Sake Bar, where Johnny Chu delivers an outstanding menu of pan-Asian dishes, everything from Thai curried chicken to Chinese-style pork, lime mint beef carpaccio and wasabi-soy chicken breast. Enjoy your exotic dishes in Sens' contemporary setting with an energetic atmosphere and a wonderful selection of sakes.
705 N. First Street, Phoenix, AZ 85004 602.340.9777 web
3 The Mission
Chef Matt Carter delivers modern Latin cuisine at The Mission, including a number of unique botanas, like the cheese plate with Chilean honey, paleta de serrano, grilled pan de yuca, toasted peanuts, serrano chiles, chimichurri, mango, pear and grilled chorizo, as well as the pork belly pibil, duck carnitas empanadas, grilled street corn, skewered shrimp antichucos and more. Also, the tequila bar is not to be missed. Choose from more than 50 boutique tequilas, in addition to premium liquor and beers.
3815 N. Brown Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85251 480.636.5005 web
At Old Town Scottsdale's Iruna, enjoy cauliflower parsley broth, brussel sprouts with thyme, traditional patatas bravas, roasted mushrooms, asparagus con romesco, spinach with chickpeas and other dishes as various ingredients become available seasonally. Also, if you enjoy wine, this is the place, as the vino selection is extensive. Kick back and relax in this laid-back environment, and let the art on the walls serve as excellent conversation-starters among your group. Phoenix magazine named Iruna "Best New Restaurant" of 2010.
7217 E. First St., Scottsdale, AZ 85251 480.398.3020 web
5 Kazimierz World Wine Bar
Dining at Kazimierz is like going on a European adventure without leaving Phoenix. If you're feeling nibblish, there are olives, hazelnuts and our favorite, the three-cheese fondue with gorgonzola, Swiss and fontina cheeses served with apple slices and bread. But wait, there's more: smoke Polish and Hungarian sausages paired with pretzels, or the antipasto platter with serrano ham, sopressata, prosciutto and assorted cheeses. And for those with larger appetites, try the Egyptian flatbreads, which are "pizzas" like you've never before experienced.
7137 E. Stetson Dr., Scottsdale, AZ 85251 480.946.3004 web