My first introduction to tapas was when I was living in Spain the summer of 1999. I touched down, learned the airline lost my luggage, hightailed it to my hotel and immediately to the tapas bar next door. This was a no-frills, down to business joint—meaning people came to eat and drink, not to enjoy the florescent overhead lights and white linoleum floors. I got down to business and immediately ordered a crisp glass of white wine and array of dishes to stave off the jet lag and depression that I’d be living in the same clothes for the next few days. They were displayed in a little glass case, like the cases of fish at a sushi bar: rows of eggy Spanish tortillas, potato croquetas, pan con tomate with Iberico ham, and the list goes on. I gorged, and at around $2-$5 a plate, I laughed when my check arrived. I knew I was going to enjoy devouring this country.
Flash forward a decade and the “tapas” craze has hit L.A. with a vengeance. No matter what type of cuisine you’re eating, half the menu will be devoted to dishes of this size. Sometimes it works, sometimes you wonder how you’re going to split an $18 taco among your four friends. Still, it’s a fun way to discover the depth of menus that chefs work so hard to conceptualize.
Enter smoke.oil.salt. It’s my favorite Spanish restaurant in L.A., finessing elevated cuisine on Melrose Ave. in Hollywood. Eating there brings me right back to my few months traveling around Spain. My favorite time to stop in is during tapas hour, where you can get inventive dishes with traditional flavors and a glass of cava without breaking the bank. Recently, they started their take on a tapas-style brunch and I had to check it out.
As I expected, this isn’t your typical L.A. brunch of Benedicts and lemon-ricotta pancakes. The menu from Executive Consulting Chef Ricardo Zarate is incredibly inventive while staying true to Spanish flavors and traditions.
This is definitely a tapas-style brunch. Many of the dishes come atop a generous slice of bread and can be easily shared between two or three people (if you’re in a larger party, place more than one order of each dish).
Alex (my husband) and I are gluttons, so ordered about half the menu: Amanida de Bruselas (shaved Brussels sprouts and kale salad, medjool dates, pea puree, candied walnuts and pimenton vinaigrette), Crostini con Angos (mushrooms four ways, sherry-braised cipolini onion, garufa puree), Frittata (a take on the Spanish tortilla made with cage-free eggs, calcots, charred salsa and shaved Idiazabal cheese), Bravas (crispy potatoes, chorizo salsa and aioli), Mar Ahumando (pimenton smoked bonito, whipped creme cheese, shaved onion salad and smoke oil) and, my personal favorite—we ordered two of these—Pan con Tomate con Huevo del Mar (uni-laced soft scrambled eggs on tomato toast with chili oil).
Take a closer look:
[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”2″ gal_title=”SmokeOilSalt”]
The best part? You can top it all off with bottomless cocktails for $18. Choose from sangria, bloody Maria made with cava, mimosas and kalimotxo (red wine and cola).
Brunch at smoke.oil.salt. runs every Sunday from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. smokeoilsalt.com