It’s safe to say that in Washington, DC – and really throughout the country – tapas are the norm these days. Many critics credit local celebrity chef José Andrés for helping to bring this concept to the United States. In recent years, the popularity of small plates has only intensified. There are a bevy of restaurants serving up tapas and other tiny delights in our nation’s capital, and one of the best is Estadio, by no means a new restaurant at this point, but still a youngster when compared to the likes of Jaleo, Zaytinya and others.
I’ll make this concise and simple: Estadio is better then its predecessors. I have eaten there a handful of times and, to date, haven’t found a dish that I didn’t devour in a few mere minutes. Brought to you by the owners of wine-centric Proof, the bustling Estadio is nestled along the increasingly hip 14th-Street corridor and showcases the cuisine of Northern Spain.
Like its sister restaurant in Chinatown, there’s a massive wine selection at Estadio; unfortunately, I’m not a fan of crushed grapes, so I stick to beer (Estrella Damm, from Barcelona, is mighty fine). Dan and Mark have delved into margaritas, and they give them two thumbs way up.
From a food standpoint, it’s difficult to go wrong at Estadio.
To get things going, I recommend skewers of chorizo, Manchego and pistachio-crusted quince. They are one-bite delights and the perfect way to start any meal.
My Dad has feasted on the butternut squash soup, vanilla creama and pumpkin seeds, and he thoroughly enjoyed its silky-smooth texture. The roasted beets, endive, orange and sheep’s milk cheese salad is refreshing and bitter (in a good way), and I’m also a big fan of the spinach with roasted squash, pears, Manchego and hazelnuts.
For a little carb action, go for the grilled country bread with tomato, olive oil and salt. It’s not complicated, but boy does it hit the spot. In the mood for some eggs? Even if you aren’t, you must order the tortilla Espanola with alioli and sweet hot peppers. It doesn’t disappoint.
Now, to my favorite part – seafood. I eat fish six to seven times a week, if not more, so I know good fin fare when I taste it. Sherry glazed black cod is enhanced with a smoky Romesco sauce; scallops with roasted cauliflower and Salbitxada are perfectly cooked, and that’s saying a lot with all the times I’ve had them overcooked; mussels with chorizo, Txakoli and scallions are flavorful but a little skimpy on the broth; and sautéed shrimp with garlic, parsley and lemon give Zaytinya a run for its money.
For the carnivores out there, Estadio has several options worth noting. Hanger steak with patatas Riojanas and sauce Valdeon is moist and succulent, and served the proper medium rare. Seared leg of lamb with Olivada and roasted shallots is one of the restaurant’s heavier options, so you might consider splitting it with your dining mates. Finally, don’t overlook the spice grilled chicken with cabbage slaw, rice and salsa loca. It’s a wonderful combination of slightly spicy bird and cool, creamy slaw.
Besides seafood, my favorite cuisine genre is, by far, vegetables, and at Estadio they are excellent. Among my favorites: The roasted wild mushrooms with parsley and garlic, and the blistered Shishitou peppers. The peppers are D*MNGOOD®.
Last, but not least, dessert. Even if you aren’t a cheesecake fan, don’t pass up Estadio’s version made with Manchego. It’s much lighter than the traditional New York variety and wonderfully paired with quince sacue and almond granola. Other noteworthy options: The chocolate and hazelnut cake with espresso ice cream, saffron rice pudding with pistachio brittle and blackberries, and the almond cake with cinnamon ice cream and lemon. Make sure you pace yourself to leave room for dessert.
Service at Estadio runs the gamut from competent to quite good. One qualm: On a recent visit, our server completely lacked friendliness and seemed more intent on getting us in and out versus taking care of our party. This is a somewhat common thread among tapas restaurants in the area, and my advice is to order your small plates in waves versus all at once. Otherwise, numerous dishes coming to your table at the same time may overwhelm you.
The atmosphere at Estadio evokes a neighborhood feel, though, on the weekends, it can get jam-packed and unnecessarily loud. The bar area is good for drinking and nibbling; not humongous, but not tiny, either. We love to eat at the bar and, if that’s your cup of tea, get there relatively early on in the evening. My only complaint is that the bar area’s several television screens are always showing the same boring, old-school soccer matches from the 1970s. I’d rather see some current sports on the tube, or nothing at all.
Estadio represents a strong dinner spot for various crowds. Certainly, it’s a good place to take a date (not that I’ve ever done that). It’s family friendly, though I wouldn’t necessary bring little kids there, as they may not like the small-plates theme. And, if you’re chilling with buddies, it’s a fun time that allows you to share tons of dishes, while not breaking the bank.
I know there are tons of restaurants in and around the city that serve tapas. Some are better than others. Estadio is the crème of the crop. Hands down. Go eat there. Your stomach will thank you.
D*MNBUZZ: Estadio will soon be open for lunch and takeout – Get the Deets
|Address:||1520 14th St., NW (Church St.) Washington, DC 20005|
|Go for:||Pinto of chorizo, Manchego and quince; shrimp with garlic and lemon; tortilla Espańola; hanger steak; leg of lamb; Manchego cheesecake; saffron rice pudding; the best margarita in DC|