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Curate or Zambra for tapas newbies in Asheville?

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bigg94 Mar 3, 2012 07:04 PM

Hi, the Mrs. and I are planning a 20th anniversary getaway to Asheville, N.C., in mid-May. We are exploring dining options ... we're actually trying to tie a downtown meal to one of the "ghost hunter" tours we're planning to take that starts at 9 p.m. (that's a special request from the Mrs., and her wish is my command on this trip, LOL!), and we want to get dinner reservations well in advance so that we coordinate things properly.

We've never dined at a tapas bar (my wife did live in Spain for a while and is familiar with the tradition but never really had an opportunity to take part in it, so you can say that we both are total newbies), and are strongly considering that for said downtown meal. Curate and Zambra according to Google Maps are relatively close to the place where our tour will be leaving from (Treasure Keepers on Church St.).

So, a question to the tapas "veterans" out there who have partaken at these establishments ... which would you recommend for complete newbies, Curate or Zambra, or would there really be any difference between the two?

Also ... and I know this may be a difficult and subjective question that can have different answers given the appetites involved... we've both looked at the respective menus and checked off lots of things we'd like to try. Is there a ballpark figure of how many tapas plates it will take to make a satisfying meal for two adults? We've managed to get into a position where money is not an object on this trip so it's not a question of how much we can afford, we just don't want to go crazy trying different things to where we end up with more than we can consume.

And I know tapas meals are intended to be relaxing and slow paced ... being that the only "train we'll have to catch" is the 9 o'clock tour, what time would you advise making a reservation?

Thanks in advance for any input!

  1. m
    miss piggy Mar 4, 2012 11:44 AM

    I love both restaurants but would pick Curate for your first tapas experience simply based on the fact that it is more authentic. I personally prefer the ambiance at Zambra and while they do have excellent food I think of them more as a "small plates" place with a huge variety of styles and themes on the menu. Curate is decidedly more Spanish in style and therefore more authentic in my opinion.

    I would ask your server for suggestions on number of plates as well, but generally my husband and I order 4-5 things at these types of places, one of which may be as simple as some bread and cheese. Personally I would dine no later than about 7pm if you have to be at your tour by 9. That would give you plenty of time to enjoy your plates (which will most likely come out one-at-a-time but not necessarily) and walk to the tour.

    You will definitely need a reservation for either restaurant on a weekend. Enjoy!

    3 Replies
    1. re: miss piggy
      c
      caiogirl Mar 7, 2012 03:36 PM

      Agree with Miss Piggy. I really love the ambiance of Zambra, but I have had some of the best food of my life at Curate.

      My boyfriend and I usually get about 6 dishes at Curate but he is a big eater :) Some suggestions, get the eggplant (even if you hate eggplant!!!), I love asparagus so I think its amazing, the acorn fed pork, the croquets (chicken is better then pork) and if they have an oxtail special don't pass it up. I've found Curate seems kinda strange at first menu glance but everything magically comes together in total culinary perfection!!!

      Get reservations far in advanced, allow about 2 hours for dining and enjoy!

      1. re: miss piggy
        danna Mar 8, 2012 07:46 AM

        I agree with miss piggy on all that. I don't think you can go wrong either place.

        As far as how many to order, i would recommend ordering only a couple of dishes at a time. You don't want to do your whole order all at once at a tapas place, it kinda defeats the purpose. As you eat, you'll kinda see what your in the mood for (like if a dish came w/ a lot of greens you might loose your appetite for salad) and how much more you want to eat plus you'll see other people's food coming out and may want to try those.

        1. re: danna
          b
          bigg94 Mar 10, 2012 06:13 AM

          Thanks for info everyone! We're going to go to Curate and we're definitely going to make reservations well in advance, even though our trip is going to be during the week (to try to beat the weekend crunch). We're looking at a Thursday night and I'm probably going to do a 6:30 reservation to make sure we're not rushed and if we get done early, we'll just explore Asheville a bit more before our "ghost trip" appointment. We're trying to make this a special trip and Curate sounds perfect for that. And we're definitely going to get the eggplant, at least I am because I can eat my weight in it, don't know about the Mrs. LOL!

      2. f
        Foodher Mar 10, 2012 11:39 AM

        While I like both, true tapas are at Curate. Zambra can be very good or not so great. Uneven quality is disheartening. Since Katie Button, chef and owner at Curate has been nominated for a James Beard and recognized by Food & Wine as a top young chef in the SE I say Curate!

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