Tasca Brava - Raleigh, NC
After reading about Tasca Brava (607 Glennwood Ave.) just yesterday on Chowhound I did a quick search and found other reviews. Going soley on those reviews we packed up and took the 2 1/4 hour ride from Jacksonville, NC for dinner. We arrived at about 7:30 and the place was empty. We sat and ordered a Vino Verde and a Sangria. The green wine was crisp & semi-sweet...just what I wanted...while the Sangria was fruity and one of the best that I've ever tried.
We figured that this might be our only visit to the establishment as we currently live 2+ hours away AND we're moving out of state within the next couple of weeks. With that mindset we planned on trying several different items.
The soup of the day was a twin of cremes - a baby artichoke along side a butternut squash. Excellent taste as well as beautiful presentation.
We also ordered the tomato bread and a sampler plate. The tomato bread was fantastically garlicy and seemed like something you could do at home with basic skills and a good bread. The sampler plate included some of the ABSOLUTE BEST goat cheese I've ever had in my life...pungent yet not overwhelming. I'd get the sampler again if I were going back...that and a tapa would be just enough for me.
We then received our piquillo peppers stuffed with eggplant and goat cheese. Not the highlight of the meal, but worthy for sure. Again, the goat cheese rose to the top of the flavor profile.
Our entree was the Paella Valenciana. What a beautiful dish to look at. The paella was good, but I wish it had been better. The dish was cooked to order and I was actually looking forward to the crusty bottom you get on an authentic paella. Sadly our dish didn't have that burnt bottom layer of rice which tells me it was either stirred during cooking or it was baked in the oven instead of on the stove top. Either way, I was disappointed by the lack of crust. I also wish the dish had a bit more saffron. I'm really unsure if they used saffron or tumeric as the flavor just was not there for me. More saffron would help. All in all it was a good dish...I just was looking for more out of a $50 entree for the two of us.
We finished up with creme brulee and a chocolate flan. The brulee custard was much less sweet than I'm used to and I probably would not order it again. It was good, just not something that I felt was outstanding. The chocolate flan was delectable. Very flavorful and the fresh creme adorning the top worked well.
We finished off dessert with the Casta Diva Moscatel. We're fans of the Austrailian Muscats and looked forward to tasting the Casta Diva from Spain. Again, we weren't disappointed. So good and a perfect way to finish off a fine meal.
All in all we left very full and very happy. If we lived in the Raleigh area, we would probably visit Tasca Brava every couple of months. We also would eat more sensibly if we visited on a regular basis!
Our server, Juan (who also seemed to be the owner), was extremely attentive. He was helpful and very passionate about his food. He explained different menu items to us and also the wines he brought to the table. Juan is great and it was a pleasure to be served by him.
"Must have" recommendations: The sangria. The sampler with cheeses, Serrano, olives, and chorizo. The chocolate flan. The Casta Diva Moscatel.
As a side note: When we left there where three other tables being served.
Side note #2: The atmosphere was very romantic. The restaurant is in what seemed to be an old house and the dining room(s) are small. A great place for a cozy night out with that special someone.
Side note #3: Wheelchair accessible.
Recently visited Tasca Brava and JayL's description is spot on. We had a terrific meal from start to finish. Standouts include a mushroom/artichoke soup similar to the one described above, a delicious pita-like puffy little bread filled with cheese, scallops, and an olive flan. I'm not much of a flan fan but this was exceptional and the perfect end to the meal, having a nice light, clean taste. It might be my new favorite dessert. Coffee and wine's by the glass were also very good.
The place was really quiet, but this gave us a chance to chat with Juan. He seems genuinely passionate about the food, the sourcing of his ingredients, and providing authentic Spanish dishes.
All this was a refreshing change from the other "tapas" restaurant we tried in Raleigh, Red Drum, which left us feeling depressed that it might what passes for tapas or Spanish in Raleigh (it included authentic Spanish dishes like crab and artichoke dip - oy).
It's a true mom and pop place with a very friendly neighborhood feel. It's a bit pricier than what I'm used to for tapas (our benchmark has been Jose Andres's Jaleo in DC), but portions seem a bit larger too. And, I'm willing to pay a bit more if he's as devoted to his ingredients and dishes as he appears to be.