Spanish tapas have accounted for some of the most fun meals of my life. But honestly, I often like the small plates format more than the cuisine itself. Sabores Tapas Bar opened in Arlington’s Penrose neighborhood in February.
According to ArlNow.com, its owners are of South American heritage. This is a very good thing for diners like me. Their restaurant trades in the Spanish flavors that they got to know working together at José Andrés’ Jaleo, but also pan-Latin dishes that touch on many of the greatest hits of one of the world’s most delicious continents.
The main menu consists of 40 dishes that range from guacamole to a full-sized bandeja paisa. Of the eight dishes that I tried, all were presented beautifully. With the exception of a bland mahi mahi filet over pineapple salsa, all were as appealing on the palate as they were to the eye.
Given the opportunity, I will always order an arepa. The fried corn cakes are presented in miniature at Sabores, topped with the diner’s choice of shredded chicken or beef. There are few other places one would be able to dig into a plate of arepitas alongside Spanish cheeses, but that’s exactly the kind of thrill that will bring me back to Sabores. The tabla de quesos features a thoroughly European plating of manchego and Mahón cheeses along with olives sunken into a pool of fig marmalade — a surprisingly appealing combination.
Plates are on the larger side for tapas. I could have happily had a lunch of just two or three like the garlic-flavored picanha steak and the pintxo Moruno, a Moorish chicken skewer served over hummus.
Whatever comprises the beginning and middle of your meal at Sabores, the end should feature a flowerpot. A sprig of mint rises from crumbled cookie dirt on top, but within, a diner will find layers of fluffy cake and densely chocolaty mousse.
For those who love tapas but wish that they went beyond Spanish traditions, Sabores Tapas Bar is a find.
2401 Columbia Pk., Arlington
See this: A cheerful yellow bar area matches the smiling service here. Grab a booth at the back for ultimate comfort, or people-watch at a high-top up front.
Eat this: Arepitas, picanha ao alho, la maceta de chocolate
Open daily, noon to 10 p.m.
Feature image by Alice Levitt
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