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size of normal Tapas in Madrid?

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We just got to Madrid and decided to start off with a light tapas meal near our hotel, so we staggered into a nice looking tapas bar near the Paseo Prado/ Palace Hotel (Calle Dubuque de Medinacelli). We ordered a dish of octupus "in the Gallaecian style," which was served on a bed of potatoes, and a salad of tomatoes, olives, and anchovies. It was delicious - the octopus was tender and completely lacking that chewy, rubbery consistency. However, the portions were huge! Two dishes was sufficient, if not too much, for two people for a full meal. I had always thought that tapas were small dishes and that the idea was to taste your way through several. I am wondering if there is a way to order smaller dishes or if the tapas in other neighborhoods have smaller portions and prices. We paid 16 euros for the octopus and about 12 for the salad. Is this typical?
If this portion style is normal, we will stick to 2 dishes per meal, but if it is possible to order smaller dishes, we would much prefer to try multiple specialties.
Any advice?

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  1. that wasn't tapas - you had raciones. You could possibly ask for media racion of some things. Raciones are meant to be shared, so if there are only two of you, it will be hard not to over order.

    5 Replies
    1. re: arobmadrid

      "I had always thought that tapas were small dishes and that the idea was to taste your way through several"

      Very romantic but "raciones" and "medias raciones" are much more common. Once thing is how the idea of tapas is sold in the USA and another thing is the truth.

      andres

      1. re: walksofmadrid.com

        Aren't 'Tapas" technically the litle snacks that sit on the bar and the dishes you order are raciones i.e. the Tapa was a free little snack on a piece of bread that was placed on the top of your glass when you ordered (still is in some places). I know the line between the two blurs in the big bars that do some Tapas to order, however the menu/chalkboard is usually dived into Tapas/Raciones.

        1. re: PhilD

          A little snack on a piece of bread?, ain't that TOSTAS? ;-)

          1. re: walksofmadrid.com

            Not if it is on top of your glass of sherry......

        2. re: walksofmadrid.com

          this is true - tapas are little dishes that are FREE with a drink; and what you get is up to the bartender or waiter; not you! Therefore going into a bar, and asking for tapas is actually a bit rude in Spain!! The usual thing is raciones, which are good to share - tapas is not like meze.

      2. It's all in the ordering! You must specify "una tapa de ..." or "una (media) racione de...". Otherwise the waiter will automatically default to the racione!