Esperpento, a little corner of Spain right in our Mission

Paella is great for sharing!
Grilled Salmon Strips

It was crowded, very crowded, and there was a wait. But it was worth it!. We were warmly welcomed by Esperpento‘s owner, Carlos Muela, who kept us in a delicious Sangria which helped the time go by. And, between the Spanish guitarist (singing Mexican favorites… a very Mission experience) and the Mariachi band which wandered in and out, the scene was lively and festive. With tapas all the rage now, and small plates popping up on menus that are as far from their Spanish origin as Asian Fusion venues, it was comforting to experience that authentic Tapas still top the charts for taste, presentation and fun. Add a great Paella, and you truly do have a party! And with your average Tapas plate at $4.50-7.00, and an very ample Paella for 2 for $26 (we were 5 and this gave us all a chance to dive into the Paella, fill up on the Tapas, of which we ordered 8 plates and we walked away more than full), the meal was as painless to the pocket as it was pleasing to the palate. Not to miss Tapas:

  • Iberica, an Imported Spanish Ham that is considered the caviar of hams, and with good reason… not too salty, with a buttery texture (we were told that temperature is key to serving this delicacy), served paper-thin, Esperpento’s Iberica is hecho en casa by a charcuterie in California that clearly has a very special hand.
  • Esparragos a la Plancha, simple but with a perfect texture and flavor… couldn’t stop eating them!
  • Alcachofas a la Plancha, a sort of artichoke carpaccio, sliced thin and full of garlic, without a doubt the best way to eat an artichoke.
  • Patatas Bravas, Esperpento’s spicy sauce is great, and the texture of the potatoes is perfect, just a little crusty on the outside, soft on the inside.
  • Grilled Salmon Strips with aioli, again, the perfect texture of the salmon made this dish a stand-out… done just enough that it was cooked through but still, it had just a bit of crunch, so you bit through from one layer of texture to another, clearly, there is attention paid to the details in the Esperpento kitchen.

The Paella de Carnes y Mariscos started with the requisite flavorful golden rice, with its presentation and taste enhanced by the fresh green peas and bright red pimentos, full of perfectly-cooked pieces of chorizo heco en casa (the same charcuterie that produces the Iberica makes a truly superior version of this Spanish sausage), tasty grilled chicken pieces and beautifully done mussels, clams, calamari and shrimp. The key, again, is texture- as the mussels and clams, even the calamari have a slighty-charrred edge from the broiler, taking away any hint of mushiness while adding another flavor nuance.

We finished off our feast with Crema Catalana (Spain’s answer to creme brulée), Flan, Mouse de Chocolate (this was our favorite dessert, not too chocolately as this dish can sometimes be, so you can savor every mouthful) and Arroz con Leche. Gracias Carlos, an evening well-spent.

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