You know that a city has developed serious food cred when restaurants offering the best of ethnic cuisine begin to crop up: Mongolian barbecue, Brazilian feijoada, Swiss raclette, Spanish tapas.
I’m not sure where the best places to get the first three are in Lexington, if you can even get them, but for terrific tapas, head for Jefferson Street.
Enoteca Wine Bar & Tapas is a popular spot for locals any time of the year, but now that spring is here, its outdoor patio and rooftop deck are ideal for indulging in wines from around the world. Enoteca can be translated as “wine repository,” and the labels are proof positive that much of the world is devoted to the grape.
On a recent picture-perfect evening, a friend and I grabbed a table on the deck and began deciding which vintage to order — no small task, I assure you, with 130 from which to choose.
I finally settled on the Zuazo Gaston from Spain’s Rioja region, a medium-bodied red with a spicy nose and an earthy (but not too) taste. At $8, it is one of the 13 wines (red, white and rosé) offered by the glass.
If you do want to order by the glass, Enoteca offers 2- ounce and 5-ounce pours, with house wines ranging in price from $7 to $15 and premium wines ranging from $5 to $33 for 2 ounces and from $13 to $82 for 5 ounces.
Wine is taken quite seriously here; the owners also own Wine + Market directly across the street. Don’t worry if you’re not a wine connoisseur; owners Seth and Renee Brewer aren’t wine snobs and love nothing better than to introduce the casual wine drinker to a new vintage.
Now, for the tapas: The list is not quite as intimidating as that of the wine, but it might be equally difficult to make a selection. For starters, should it be the cheese platter or the meat platter?
The former features cheeses as diverse as Valdeon, a Spanish blue, and a Wisconsin cheddar; the latter offers Serrano ham and chorizo from Spain, cured California salmon and Italian smoked ham.
With each item priced at $3, you can mix and match, and accompaniments include baguette slices, cornichons (a pickled gherkin), nuts, and preserves and mustard.
It’s even more difficult to select from the tapas themselves. I am trying to make my way through the entire list, and I have yet to find one I didn’t like. My favorite is the tortilla Española ($8), a potato and egg omelet with a tangy piquillo pepper sauce to give it zest.
I also love the patatas bravas (roasted potatoes drizzled with aioli, $6), the mushrooms stuffed with manchego cheese ($9), and the Spanish mussels with saffron white wine sauce and cherry tomatoes ($10).
If you’re in the market for something a bit more substantial (if I had one complaint here, it’s that some of the tapas are a bit small even for a small plate), opt for the crab cakes. There are three in a serving, and they’re accompanied by a caper and cornichon tartar sauce ($9). Or try the beef tenderloin with green peppercorn sauce ($18).
There is a tapa of the day and several vegetarian options, and most of the items on the menu are gluten free. The dessert menu is limited, but then if one of the choices is the chocolate bourbon almond stuffed figs ($5), you don’t need many others.
Wine isn’t the only spirit Enoteca offers. There are several specialty cocktails, all $10 each. If you want to stay in a Spanish frame of mind, order the Cava cocktail (Copper & Kings brandy, bitters, Spanish sparkling wine and a sugar cube). There also is an adequate beer list.
It’s the whiskey list that really stands out, however. Enoteca is a bourbon lover’s dream. It even has hard-to-find Pappy Van Winkle, although at a (steep) price. The 15-year-old is $45 a glass; the 20-year-old goes for $75, and the 23-year-old for $95.
If Pappy isn’t in your budget, don’t fret. A pitcher of sangria and a bowl of marinated olives will do just as nicely, here on Jefferson Street’s little slice of Spain.
Patti Nickell is a Lexington-based travel and food writer. Reach her at email@example.com.
Enoteca Wine Bar & Tapas Restaurant
Address: 191 Jefferson St.
Hours: 5-9 p.m., Sun. and Mon.; 5-10 p.m., Tues.; 5-11 p.m. Wed. and Thurs.; 5 p.m. to midnight Fri. and Sat.. It’s wise to call ahead; Enoteca often hosts private events for which the restaurant is closed.
Payment: All major credit cards
Other: No reservations taken for groups of fewer than six.