Get a taste of Spanish cuisine on Clematis at Tapeo

In March, West Palm Beach fell in love with Spanish tapas, as Basque opened their location at Hotel Biba. The shareable dishes, made with fresh ingredients, quickly became a favorite of local foodies, as well as out of town guests. Then, early this summer, the restaurant closed.

Although it may reopen come “season,”  tapas aficionados were left wondering where they’d be able to get their paella fix. Luckily for them, as well as for every other food fan in the Palm Beaches, Tapeo is now open.

This restaurant, located at 118 South Clematis in the old Tin Fish building, opened in mid June serving “classic tapas with a modern flair.” Their menu features a wide variety of small plates, as well as classic paella, fish and chicken; all at a reasonable price for the area.

Recently, Palm Beach Happening was able to sample some of their wares, and left full, happy, and eager to return in the future.

Our meal began with a few selections from the bar. We enjoyed the El Toro (a strawberry centric rum concoction,) Mojito, Limonada, and the Tequila Mockingbird. Of those, the concensus was that Tequila Mockingbird was probably the strongest drink we’ve ever enjoyed in the Palm Beaches – not that it’s a bad thing! It featured a generous amount of tequila and enough blue curacao to make it seem like the sort of beverage Papa Smurf indulged in when he had a bad day, or perhaps the Nav’i sip on after flying on the back of a banshee!

They brought out a bread course to start our food feast. The baguette style bread is served with chopped olives, which has a similar flavor to the mix you get at Carraba’s. Interesting, to say the least.

For the first course, we were brought a plate of Gambas Ajilio (Sauteed Shrimp in Garlic, White Wine, Parsley, and Lemon,) as well as Pulpo A La Plancha (Grilled Octopus Topped with a Homemade Aioli and Chimichurri.) Now, we consider ourselves fairly adventurous eaters, so the octopus wasn’t intimidating. Some might see the sucker covered legs as a bit much, but the flavor can be compared to squid, or perhaps a well cooked lobster. The shrimp were flavorful, but had an almost buffalo-style quality to them. Not bad, but somewhat unexpected.

For our next course, we were brought a plate of Chuletas de Cordero (Herb Marinated Lamb Chops.) Some of you might be shaking your head after seeing the word lamb, as it is a meat that can sometimes be…assertive. Well, these chops were probably the second most flavorful we’ve ever tried. They were mild, with just the right amount of seasoning. If you’re a meat eater, they’re a must try!

Next, we were given a lighter course – Empanadillas de Carne (Homemade Beef Empanadas) as well as a platter of Spinach and Cheese Empanadas. The jury was split between the two, as each had their own awesome combination of flavors. The beef were definitely heartier, both in flavor as well as outer shell. The spinach and cheese were much lighter, with almost a puff pastry crust. You truly can’t go wrong with either!

Valenciana

Then, it was time to get to the heart of the meal – paella! We were brought a plate of Valenciana, which features Shrimp, Clams, Mussels, Scallops, Calamari, Chicken, Chorizo, and Saffron. Ours also had twin lobster tails. The skill with which the chef, Joaquin Cunha, assisted by his staff as well as owner/manager Juan Mendez, combined the amazing flavors into one cohesive dish shows the true passion they put into their food. Every bite was bursting with flavor, and even the rice was smooth and silky without being overdone.

Of course, every good meal must end with dessert. We finished the evening by sampling three of their specialties; chocolate mousse, flan, and Serraturra. What is serraturra, you might ask? Aside from being heaven in a bowl, it is whipped cream and crushed graham crackers. Sounds way too simple, right? Perhaps that is the beauty of it! The  chocolate mousse was heavy, but very flavorful. The flan was also very good. Our party of three was split as to which one was the favorite, so we have to tell you to sample all three and decide for yourself!

Palm Beach Happening would like to thank owner Carlos Mendez, bartender Mack Russell and the entire staff for their hospitality. If you’re looking for a great place to enjoy an excellent meal at the foot of Clematis Street, be sure to check out Tapeo. You’ll be glad you did!