By: Laurie Wallin
Capital Cooking Contributor
Occasionally, I’ll walk up 18th Street to the Farragut West Metro. I’ve always been curious about Taberna del Alabardero with its inviting outdoor patio and elegant décor. I recently tried their fall menu and I’m kicking myself that I haven’t visited sooner. Taberna del Alabardero is celebrating 27 years in DC – in a city where restaurants come and go, this is a rare feat, and after visiting, I can see why. Executive Chef Executive Chef Javier Romero, who has been in DC for 6 years, has put together a menu that showcases Spain – he wants to have Taberna’s diners taste the real flavors of Spain. Each dish has a Spanish traditional base. Fresh seafood is delivered every day, and the freshness of the seafood really shined in the dishes that I tasted. Sommelier Jorge Olias, who has been with the restaurant for over 6 months, has curated a lovely wine list to complement Chef Romero’s dishes.
Chef Romero began the evening with the Carpaccio de Bacalao Ahumado con Salmon Marinado, which was Cod carpaccio with marinated wild salmon, Spanish pickles, and house-made bread with capers. This dish, along with the next few, was paired with the D.O. Cava Biutiful Cave Brut Nature. The wine had a crisp, bubbly nature that nicely complemented the appetizers. The cod, from Spain, was designed to taste like “a piece of the sea.” A touch of smoke at the end really elevated the dish. The salmon was extremely fresh and I liked a slight kick that came from the mustard.
The second course, and my favorite appetizer for the evening, was the Tartar de Atún, yellow-fin tuna tartare with Spanish Ajoblanco (almond-garlic and pistachio sauce). I’m a sucker for a good tuna tartare, and this is one of the better ones I’ve had recently. The fish was incredibly fresh and I loved the creamy, slightly sweet sauce, which complemented, not overwhelmed, the fresh fish and red onions.
The Vieras a la Parrilla (grilled scallops over an Iberian Puchero, which is bone broth made with ham, pork belly, and cuttlefish reduction) was very good. I loved how the sweetness of the scallops played off the saltiness of the ham and pork belly. This dish’s presentation was also one of my favorites of the evening.
Chef Romero’s ode to chicken noodle soup, his Gallina Noodle Soup, features Hen instead of chicken and is served with savory seasonal vegetables, served with a poached quail egg. I loved the depths of this dish – certainly an elevated chicken noodle soup.
The Rape a la Parrilla con Cangrejo Cremoso (grilled monkfish over marinated giant broad beans and finished with a taste of Old Bay) featured the very thick and satisfying monkfish alongside delicious mussels and a savory topping. This dish went beautifully with the D.O. Rueda Melior 2013 Verdejo.
The Marmitako-Tataki, which is yellowfin tuna tataki over traditional basque country fish stew with potatoes and bell peppers featured a meaty tuna with nicely cooked potatoes and featured a nice medley of flavors.
What would a Spanish restaurant be without Paella? I sampled both the Paella de Langosta (with Maine lobster, mussels, and calamari) and the Paella Vegetariana (vegetarian paella with seasonal mushrooms). The seafood paella had excellent flavors, but it was really the vegetarian paella that surprised me with its depth of flavors and super rich mushrooms.
The Mollejas de Ternera, veal sweetbreads with chanterelle mushrooms, fava beans and potato gnocchi was incredibly tender. I loved the addition of the gnocchi, which balanced the earthy dish. The hearty dish was complemented by a slightly sweet sauce. This was a very unique way of preparing veal sweetbreads and went beautifully with the Sommelier’s pick of D.O. Ca Hacienda Lopez de Haro 2012 Rioja Tempranillo.
The Cochinillo Confitado (suckling pig confit slow cooked for 12 hours with smoked potatoes, royal trumpet mushrooms, and creamy peach gravy) features a suckling pig that comes from North Carolina. The pig was slightly sweet and beautifully tender.
The meal ended with the Coulant de Azahar con Helado de Frutos Rojos, an orange blossom coolant with red berries ice cream. The cake was light and moist and the ice cream was a refreshing and light.
In addition to this fall menu, La Taberna del Alabardero also features happy hours, Tapa Tuesdays, Wine Wednesdays, an Executive Lunch menu, and events including cooking classes, wine dinners, and even flamenco dancing! I look forward to returning and sampling more of Chef Romero’s cooking.