There was a time when Costanza and I would hit up La Bodega (when it was still located on Howe) after work for some tapas and sangria. Sadly, our lives became more complex with the arrival of the kiddies and other things that we stopped doing that altogether. So when Elaine mentioned that she wanted to head to Espana for dinner, Costanza and I looked at each other and muttered "Patatas Bravas" in unison. Yes, we were ready. Ready to relive some good times. Too bad we were delayed by almost an hour since we could've even find a pay spot near the place. If there was only a Skytrain station nearby!
Being a small spot, we had to wait for a table to open up. Boy, that was one small table, but the pace of the plates was just right so it didn't overwhelm us. Looking more like fried zucchini or pickle chips, the Crispy Eggplant was rather surprising in texture. Each slice was tempura-like crispy while the eggplant itself was not very eggplant-like (not mushy nor spongy). It was spiced with raz-el-hanout where I could definitely taste the cumin, nutmeg and cinnamon. We were then presented with the first of our 2 toasts being the Chicken Liver Pate with pickled grapes and Pedro Ximenez. Rich and creamy, the pate was dominated by the tart grapes, but evenly balanced by the sweet wine. The toast itself was crunchy and firm which held up to the pate.
Our second toast was the Catalan Tomato, Serrano ham and fried quail egg. This one was almost a contrast to the liver pate toast. Although there was bright and tart notes from the tomatoes, there wasn't much impact from the Serrano ham nor quail egg. Rather, the flavours were subtle, allowing the fresh tomatoes to shine. With that being said, we loved the in-our-face impact of the liver pate toast over this one. Constructed of similar ingredients, the Heirloom Tomato Salad consisted of mojama, fried quail's eggs, basil and smoked olive oil. Swapping out the ham with mojama meant the meat was more buttery and actually more salty. This went well with the runny quail eggs as well as the fresh tomatoes.
Moving onto the Patatas Bravas with spicy tomato sauce and aioli, we thought the fried potatoes were a bit soft and could've been slightly crispier. However, they were still good with a firm, yet almost fluffy interior. The accompanying sauce was zesty and appealingly spicy (albeit probably a bit too much). This was nicely balanced by the creamy aioli. The patatas also made an appearance with the Grilled Hanger Steak with Pedro Ximenez and valdeon butter. Prepared rare, the thinly sliced steak was naturally flavourful in gamy-like manner. This was further amped by the sharp and impactful butter as well as the sweet wine.
Moving onto some seafood, we tried the Grilled Octopus with new potatoes, padron peppers, caperberries and Romesco sauce. This was my favourite dish of the meal as the tentacles were expertly prepared. Exhibiting a tender chewiness with a grilled exterior, the octopus alone was money. Add in the complex flavours of the Romesco (tart, nutty, sweet, salty and aromatic), the dish hit all the tastebuds and textural components. Something that really woke our palates up was the Fried Salt Cod with tomato salmorejo. As expected, the cod was stingingly salty while moist and flaky. It was lightly battered which let the salt cod do its thing. Mild, creamy and soothing, the salmorejo was necessary in bringing the saltiness down a notch.
The piece de resistance was the Daily Paella with walnuts, calamari and chorizo. It arrived bubbling hot in the pan it was prepared in. There was a significant sear on the bottom of the pan which elicited a noticeable smokiness to go with the saffron and tomato. There was a certain zestiness due to the combination of tomato and chorizo. I found the rice to be toothsome albeit overly wet from the sauce. To end the meal, we had the Churros with rich chocolate sauce and house made yorgurt & dulce de leche. As for the churros themselves, I thought they were more like a sugar-coated bread stick. However, the dips made up for this as the chocolate was decadent and only purposefully sweet. The dulce de leche was thick, sweet and caramelized. After it was all said and done, the one word that best described our meal was "pleasant". Nothing totally blew our socks off, yet still an enjoyable experience nonetheless.
- Generally appealing eats
- Decent service
- Not overly expensive
- Super tight seating
- No pitcher of sangria?