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In search of good, reasonably priced, authentic Spanish Tapas

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currycue Aug 6, 2008 01:53 PM

Don't know why this seems to be so hard to find in T.O. with the tapas craze and all, you think there would be a place that you can get some chorizo in sherry or cider, albondigas (meatballs), croquetas and some tomato-garlic bread with good, strong sangria for under $80 for two. Too much to ask? So far, I've been to Cava (way too expensive, but not bad) Casa Barcelona (way too expensive $9 tapas? come on) Cambalache on Mt. Pleasant (flavours just not there and weak sangria) and Torito's menu looks too funky/expensive for what I'm looking for.

Will I just have to buy the Manchego cheese and jamon serrano from the market and make do at home?

Any help would be appreciated! I really miss Madrid.

  1. w
    Westwardho Dec 10, 2008 10:14 AM

    Have you been by Coca on Queen West? It has been recently revamped - new management, new menu, new team. It is a great spot to go when you don't want to wait in line at Terroni. :-)

    7 Replies
    1. re: Westwardho
      JamieK Dec 10, 2008 10:45 AM

      It's Globe Bistro that took over management of Coca and revamped the menu and service team.
      http://www.globebistro.com/hi/tabid/4...

      1. re: JamieK
        c
        childofthestorm Dec 10, 2008 10:47 AM

        Wow, that is very, very good news! We need some reports on the new Coca, someone without a 3 month-old baby at home should go.

        1. re: childofthestorm
          p
          phoenikia Dec 10, 2008 11:38 AM

          I ate at Coca about 2 weeks ago. The papas bravas (aka patatas bravas) were pretty good, as was the jaime coca (arugula and machego). Tried the Fritos (fried zucchini), which ended up being thick slices of zucchini, with almost a beignet-style batter, rather than thin and crispy. The skirt steak was tasty enough, but it really isn't a dish I would usually associate with a tapas restaurant. I thought portions were larger than you'd find at most tapas restaurants.

          Our server was great- professional and courteous. It's definitely one of the better food values on West Queen West, and I'd eat at Coca again if I was craving tapas and happened to be downtown.

          Overall, I like the food at Cava better, but the flavours at Coca are a little closer to what I found in Spain. Cava adds heat to quite a few of their dishes, which adds a twist to their tapas which I really enjoy.

          Here is a link to Coca's current menu: http://www.dine.to/profile_features.p...

          1. re: phoenikia
            c
            currycue Dec 10, 2008 12:37 PM

            That menu looks pretty good too. How are their drinks? About the same price I'm guessing? I remember a glass of sangria was about $9 at Cava. Wow! It was good though.

            1. re: currycue
              p
              phoenikia Dec 10, 2008 01:15 PM

              I only drank pomegranate juice the night I went, but my friend liked her wine. Coca is offering some wines by the glass at special prices that they are calling "orphans" (bottles from the previous management). Can't remember what the exact prices were.

              I'd expect the sangria to be around $9-$11 at Coca, due to its location. If I remember correctly, the sangria at Nyood (also on West Queen West), runs around $11, so I'd expect Coca to be charging roughly the same price.

              1. re: phoenikia
                w
                Westwardho Dec 12, 2008 07:51 AM

                I went by but they are not open for lunch. Rachel the manager gave me a copy of the menu which she says is posted on the new site www.cocatapas.ca Wines by the glass start at $6 she said for the "poor Queen west kids" who eat there during the week. But that more wines are coming they just need some time to ramp it up.

                -----
                Coca
                783 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

            2. re: phoenikia
              dxs Mar 28, 2009 07:00 AM

              Just an update on Coca - I walked by last night and the windows were papered over. According to their website they're closed for a 'major' reno.

      2. c
        currycue Nov 3, 2008 07:04 AM

        Hello, thought I'd update this as it's been a while. Sorry, still haven't been to Torito or Embrujo, but on a friend's suggestion, made it to Segovia last night. I had been years ago before visiting Spain and remembered it being decent.

        Boy was I wrong!!!

        Where to start? Tapas: Calamares: not bad, garlic mayo sauce very salty. Crab croquettes, not bad, a bit bland, though. Chorizo, horrible. Very salty, cooked without sherry, cider or any other sauce, just sliced and fried. Very limited tapas menu, when I asked for patatas, he said, that's a Madrid thing. Sorry, I've had them in Seville and Barcelona too, try again.

        The paella for the main was atrocious. Too salty, taste as though everything was cooked in water instead of stock, all the flavours of the seafood were drained (probably from the water) and a distinct lack of saffron (the rice wasn't even yellow-ish)

        The sangria was o.k., but weak. Probably used an inferior red wine. At $35 a jug, not acceptable.

        The bill for a light meal for 4?

        $170!!!!

        Absolutely unacceptable. The search continues.....

        P.S. Had a WONDERFUL Spanish meal in Ghent, Belgium last month of all places. Good, reasonably priced (about 50% more than you would pay in Spain) and authentic. I begged her to come to Toronto!

        2 Replies
        1. re: currycue
          c
          currycue Dec 10, 2008 10:03 AM

          Just an update on the continued search :-) Finally got to visit Embrujo Flamenco on Saturday and I quite enjoyed it. Not the best I've had, but good flavours, and reasonably priced. I had the codfish croquettes, chorizo in sherry and the patatas bravas. The tomato sauce that came with the bravas was a little different than what I was used to, but when mixed with the spicy mayo that came with the croquettes, they turned out exactly as I've had in Madrid and Seville. Very good, and very fresh, I'd definitely go back. Unfortunately, as per North American standard, the drinks were really expensive ($16 for two glasses of decent, but full of ice Sangria) Oh well, getting closer. I still must try Torito.

          Thanks!

          1. re: currycue
            pinstripeprincess Dec 10, 2008 01:08 PM

            i do not have any spain experience to relate but after a visit to emburjo flamenco a few weeks back i am not at all interested in returning. i found their patates bravas quite oily and nearly burnt without any interesting texture and that sauce as you noted was not quite right. we ordered a cod dish with some melange of vegetables on top (don't know the dish name) and while i'm very sure the menu didn't mention it was fried and only a stew.... lo and behold the texture and oiliness of a deep fried fillet underneath all the stew sauce. the calimari was texturally very good and fresh though the batter quite thick and again... oily. i found the paella a bit lacking in rice (filler for some i know, but it would have balanced the dish much better) and the seafood mediocre with only ok flavours though a good noticeable amount of saffron. the only dish i was pleased with came out of a jar i'm sure, white anchovies in oil... tender though vinegary and so still delicious.

            i was frustrated and disappointed with the service. apparently being right beside the kitchen door doesn't even grant you a glance. we had to wave people down if we didn't grab them by the sleeve before they quickly ran from our table after dropping an item off. what appeared to be the owner/manager seemed completely indignant and haughty when we were casually discussing "tapas" restaurants in toronto with the hostess and how silly the concept at urbano was... though she agreed with us she just kept barking "no" and "no that isn't tapas" at the hostess when she inquired if the owner/manager heard of the place. the portions of dessert were also paltry for the sky high price they charged and again mediocre.

            i have been very happy with my experiences at torito though i would like to ensure you know they are serving something that is more cuban in style at times. the food is delicious and slightly more pomp and circumstance than your regular tapas type place but still very comforting.

        2. estufarian Aug 6, 2008 04:13 PM

          I'm not really a tapas fan, but I agree with your assessments above. When I do try something like that I go to Coca (tapas menu attached - it has some of the items you mention) although I tend to prefer the Coca flatbreads - sort of like a Spanish Pizza (which I prefer to Pizza). It's also open Mondays - and IMO one of the best places to go in TO on a Monday. But I much prefer wine to Sangria - so can't speak to whether they even serve Sangria

          http://www.dine.to/profile_features.p...

          -----
          Coca
          783 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

          1. finelydiced Aug 6, 2008 02:16 PM

            Let me preface this by saying that I am a fan of Tapas but by no means an expert. I had dinner at Embrujo Flamenco on the Danforth some time ago, and I found the food to be fantastic. For those of you in the know that consider this establishment to be sub par please let me know so I don't continue to fool myself into thinking it was authentic!

            6 Replies
            1. re: finelydiced
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              currycue Aug 6, 2008 02:29 PM

              I've actually heard someone mention them before, now that you say it. I will have to give them a try. Just took a look at their menu and it looks like the real deal to me. Thanks so much!!!

              1. re: finelydiced
                atomeyes Aug 6, 2008 03:31 PM

                I haven't been there in a year, but it is quite tasty. Tapas is not cheap anywhere (hence the reason why we don't frequent it).

                A funny story - I emailed Jose Calderon of the Toronto Raptors. He's Spanish, so I thought I'd ask him where he goes to. He actually likes a place in Mississauga - I forget the name of it :(

                1. re: atomeyes
                  NovoCuisine Aug 8, 2008 08:08 AM

                  It is probably Casa Barcelona: http://www.casabarcelona.ca/

                  Which is actually in Etobicoke.. but anything remotely west is all the same to a lot of downtowners ;)

                  1. re: NovoCuisine
                    atomeyes Aug 8, 2008 11:38 AM

                    no no...it was another place. dang, wish i wrote it down.
                    it actually seemed more like a portuguese resto than a spanish resto.

                    I *think* its Martins (in Streetsville).

                  2. re: atomeyes
                    j
                    jlibs Nov 3, 2008 07:20 AM

                    Do you mean Piatto at Miss rd and Dundas. I know a friend of mine saw the raps there one time

                  3. re: finelydiced
                    t
                    torontofoodiegirl Aug 7, 2008 09:03 AM

                    Like finelydiced, I'm no expert on Spanish/Tapas food, but I've been to Embrujo Flamenco a couple of times and really enjoyed the food there. Currycue, as a pro, let us know what you think if you try it.

                  4. Splendid Wine Snob Aug 6, 2008 02:12 PM

                    Sorry but it sounds like you'll have to make do at home.

                    Torito is well loved and authentic. I personally do not find it expensive by Toronto standards. I would find it hard to believe if there was an authentic tapas joint in TO using great, fresh ingredients offering plates up for less than $9.

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: Splendid Wine Snob
                      c
                      currycue Aug 6, 2008 02:33 PM

                      Took a look at Torito's menu again and no, Lamb loaf w/currants and dried apricots in almond-saffron sauce is not what I'd consider something on a typical tapas menu and $12 for Bravas and chorizo? Please!

                      1. re: Splendid Wine Snob
                        c
                        currycue Aug 6, 2008 02:35 PM

                        Took a look at Torito's menu again and no, Lamb loaf w/currants and dried apricots in almond-saffron sauce is not what I'd consider something on a typical tapas menu and $12 for Bravas and chorizo? Please! Maybe only if their "Tapas" are actually raciones (7" plates instead of saucer plates)

                        1. re: currycue
                          Rabbit Aug 7, 2008 01:31 PM

                          I'd encourage you to try Torito before knocking it. Food, wine, and service are all delightful and it completely made us long for Madrid. There are some more imaginative dishes on Torito's menu, but we actually ate some pretty interesting things in Spain and I don't think tapas has to be just tortilla, ham and cheese anymore! If you give Torito a chance, I think you might be pleasantly surprised.

                          PS - I have the menu reading $9 for patatas bravas and chorizo. And I'm in agreement with SWS that Torito does not actually seem all that expensive for good quality ingredients in Toronto.

                          1. re: Rabbit
                            jeninewsbite Aug 7, 2008 02:04 PM

                            I "third" the comment re: pricing. Unfortunately, imported ingredients cost a pretty penny ... the Palacio chorizo I buy here is in the $15 range, while the same product can be found in Madrid for around 3 Euros. Same thing for cheese, and wine.

                            The other thing to remember is that Spain is as gastronomically diverse as Canada is geographically diverse, so perhaps if you're looking for something that is authentically Madrileño, it would help to specify that.

                            That said, I'll be stalking this thread ... I miss Madrid, too!

                            1. re: Rabbit
                              c
                              currycue Aug 8, 2008 08:57 AM

                              Thanks for that. I'm sure I'll try it eventually, but the thing I love most about Tapas and a lot of Spanish dishes is the simplicity of it all (exactly the ham, cheese, tortilla, meatballs, croquettes, bravas, sausage) so the complicated dishes aren't really what I was looking for. I find it also really frustrating that so many places seem to have a hard time getting that right, seeing as it is really so simple.

                              I can totally understand certain chorizos, jamon serrano and queso manchego costing a bit more over here (heck I alway bring back a wheel of Manchego in my suitcase when I come back) but that's a bit rich for potatoes with hot sauce on it.

                              I do intend to try Embrujo Flamenco, not only because its menu appeals to that simple esthetic I love so much about Spanish food, but their pricing seems quite reasonable as well (by Toronto standards)

                              1. re: currycue
                                Splendid Wine Snob Aug 8, 2008 09:35 AM

                                Actually most of Torito's tapas are really simple-that's the beauty of them and why I am a loyal client of theirs. I too prefer simple, well executed flavours and textures.

                                And I also prefer not to knock a place based on what I see on a website and/or heresay. Its best to try for yourself. I hate to use the analogy as its such a cliche, but judging a book by its cover is always unfair.

                                1. re: Splendid Wine Snob
                                  c
                                  currycue Aug 8, 2008 12:50 PM

                                  I totally agree with you that it's unfair, but at that price point, I will be extremely disappointed if the meal is not to my liking wheras, if I blew, say, $40-50 for two at (for example that crappy Friendly Thai in Leslieville) I wouldn't be as upset.

                        2. OnDaGo Aug 6, 2008 02:12 PM

                          There is a place called Sergovia in an alley behind the corner of Yonge & Wellesely ... I have never been there but I hear it is traditional Spanish food and they have a tapas menu..

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: OnDaGo
                            hippotatomus Dec 10, 2008 10:26 AM

                            I tried Sergovia once after walking by it many times and noticing the bright yellow exterior.. I bought their Paella for 2 for takeout a couple months ago. At first I thought it was a bit pricey since they didn't have any single order of paella and you could only order 40 bucks worth of it... but when they gave it to us it was HUGE! Like in an aluminum party platter like thing. They had to put it in a box. It had lobster and scallops too.. We were filled and it was very good..

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