As you went from place to place, you got your passport stamped to prove you ordered their tapa, and you also filled out a little voting card to rate the tapa itself, the quality of the service, and the “tapa con chispa” or the creative “spark” conveyed by the tapa.
|Tapasporte (Tapas Passport)|
What: A base of cabbage and apple salad, which surprised me with its similarity to American-style coleslaw, supported three chunks of Japanese-style tataki or rare, lightly-seared mackerel. This was my first foray into the tapas contest and still one of my favorites from the whole month.
Where: Garum, Praciña das Penas, Nº 1
What: Three bites of warm, flaky, flavorful teriyaki salmon were paired with a sauce made from kimchi (Korean spicy pickled cabbage). A fitting tapa from this Asian-Galician fusion restaurant.
Where: Resas, Rúa da Algalia de Abaixo, Nº 33
|La Casa de la Marquesa|
What: Another entry with tataki mackerel, although this tapa was served by a nice Japanese restaurant just outside the old town. I liked the simple combination of sesame seed-garnished fish with avocado slices.
Where: La Casa de la Marquesa, Costa de San Domingos de Bonaval, Nº 2
What: Inspired to go here by the name alone—“cow cubed”—I was 2/3 impressed with what I got. I loved the warm, melt-in-your-mouth stewed beef cheek, and the sirloin carpaccio had a nice flavor, but the tenderloin steak was a little tough and chewy.
Where: O Afiador, Rúa de San Pedro, Nº 28
|Tosta e Tostiña|
What: “Carrot cupcake” that 100% met my American standards for carrot cake. The cake was moist, sweet, and had that nice carrot crunch to it, and the frosting was cream cheese-based and sinfully rich. While most tapas were savory, this bakery-café understandably entered the contest with three “sweet tapas.”
Where: Tosta e Tostiña, Avenida da Coruña, Nº 3
What: Easily the most complex, artistic, and visually-creative tapa I tried, this “apple pie” consisted of Tonka bean streussel, creamy toffee, a crunchy web of frozen Rooibos tea (!!!), a miniature candy apple, and a sail of crispy, Greek-style filo pastry. I’m exhausted just thinking about it—but it tasted so very good. The service at this upscale restaurant, however, was the worst I’ve had in Spain, so…
Where: A Tafona, Rúa da Virxe da Cerca, Nº 7
What: I was surprised when I learned that my go-to café for top-notch coffee and generous free tapas was participating in the competition, as it’s an unassuming establishment along the new town’s main thoroughfare. But they’ve won awards for their coffee and their homestyle tapas are always fresh, so I looked forward to trying what the head barista-chef at Venecia would cook up. A layer of byesar or Moroccan-style hummus made from fava beans enveloped two skewers of fried chicken that had been marinated in soy sauce and Ethiopian coffee. A simple, African-inspired tapa that tasted delicious.
Where: Café Venecia, Rúa do Hórreo, Nº 27
|Cafetería Orfeón - San Francisco Hotel Monumento|
What: I came here partly to feel a little fancy in a four-star hotel’s café (based out of a living Franciscan monastery!) and partly to satisfy my fried squid cravings. This tapa consisted of baby squid fried in a mango-tempura batter with lime mayonnaise on the side. I honestly didn’t think it was all that creative, but in the end it was a typical Spanish dish—chipirones fritos—done very, very well.
Where: Cafetería Orfeón - San Francisco Hotel Monumento, Rúa do Campiño de San Francisco, Nº 3
Which of these tapas do you think sounds the tastiest? Have you experienced any other tapas competitions in Spain before? Share below in the comments!