Sittin’ on …

Tapa the World

Tapa the World

2115 J St.
Sacramento, CA 95816

(916) 442-4353

Arriving at Tapa the World at around 7:30 on a Friday night, we found roughly a hundred young locals in their hippest finery packing the place and spilling out onto the sidewalk. Entering, we noted the pleasing atmosphere created by a pretzel-limbed man sitting barefoot on a rug and playing Beatles medleys on an acoustic guitar. As enchant-ing aromas wafted over the din of the crowd, a man in short pants politely accosted us, saying the wait would be 15 minutes—a surprise, considering the number of people milling about. Five minutes later, we were seated.

As the evening progressed, this surprising promptness in the face of a large crowd would extend to all areas of our dinner; this, really, is now what I find most impressive about the place. Of course, the food was quite good, but I was amazed at the quality of service and the quickness with which our food came. Normally, at a place so full of people, I’d expect a bit of a wait, but in just a couple of minutes our waitress had our drinks and dinner orders squared away, and our food came in under 10 minutes. We were seated near the kitchen, too, and watching the cooks’ feverish tong and pan juggling amid the leaping flames, we could tell they were in the heat of battle.

For the most part, it was a battle they won. Had everything been as perfect as the chef’s tapas special, a four-star review would be in order. This simple and delicious dish consisted of sautéed escolar, salmon and mussels, with large bits of roasted tomatoes in what’s probably the best cilantro pesto sauce I’ve come across. The fish—particularly the meaty escolar—tasted exceptionally fresh, and was awesome in combination with the well-balanced and slightly lemony pesto. Oh, yeah: There was this great fennel-seed bread with which to mop up all the extra sauce.

Also good, but not astonishingly so, were the grilled vegetables. Oversized rings of red onion, slices of eggplant and zucchini, and halves of new potatoes were attractively laid out and garnished with sprinkles of hard cheese and a lattice of drizzled balsamic reduction, making a nice accompaniment to the fish.

The marinated lamb tenderloin entrée came highly recommended by our server, but was just a touch disappointing. It was advertised as being served with three sauces: Rioja wine, balsamic and avocado, but we weren’t able to discern avocado, in any form, on the plate. And although the lamb was properly tender and flavorful, the Rioja sauce didn’t seem quite right. My friend joked that it somehow tasted like oatmeal. I didn’t agree—specifically—but I did find it relatively flavorless. However, it was saved largely by what came with it: tasty saffron and wild mushroom rice. Actually, since we still had some of that great pesto on the table, it became a fitting surrogate for the barren Rioja sauce.

We finished with an assortment of deli-type tapas: various green and black olives, Spanish cheeses, cured Serrano ham and potato cakes. Something about cured meats, olives and cheeses always makes me want to linger. They’re the stuff you snack on at dinner parties and such. So I like that you can order this stuff at tapas places, and just sort of relax and take your time over snacks and sangria, nibbling and indulging in conversation. The very fact that you can come to a place and not be expected to splurge on a full meal is cool in itself, and since Tapa the World is open until midnight seven days a week, it’s the perfect place to just drop in with the late-night munchies and get a few simple tapas without further obligation.

The kitchen and floor staff did a remarkable job of maintaining quality under pressure. And if it weren’t apparent that everybody seems to know about the place already, I would urge you all to give it a try.