It’s true what they say, Georgetown is indeed a picturesque little place. Strolling down some of the cobblestone-paved and quiet residential avenues, tucked away from the more bustling M Street, one feels as though one were strutting straight through a watercolor painting. Lots of neat bars and restaurants pull in both tourists and locals seeking a “nice” night out. Having a significant other close-by probably helps fully experience the town. Maybe it even makes the line outside Georgetown Cupcakes seem less impossible…
I myself was with two very significant others who were visiting me over the weekend. We decided to take a stroll in Georgetown and find a place to wine and dine on one of the nicer nights of their trip. I didn’t really know where to take them but luckily one of them brought up the idea of sharing tapas and the other had never had it, so we knew we absolutely had to. A quick yelp search later my friend found Bodega on M Street and in we went. It was a tad gimmicky with its slightly forced bullfighting theme, shiny velvet feel and fierce red + black scheme, but the music was okay and the seats look comfortable enough. The waiters’ shirts were buttoned up, no curly black chest hair visible. We were seated in a round sofa booth near the window which was left open to allow the night breeze to flow through. We ordered a bottle of Cava, which came, chilled and crisp, very quickly along with warm, crusty bread to munch on as we each picked two dishes off the rather long list of cold and hot tapas. They arrived at the table sporadically throughout the night, whenever they were ready.
Our first and hands-down favorite tapa was the Arroz Meloso de Txipiron en su Tinta y Calamares Salteadas, sauteed calamari on squid ink rice. The curvy pieces of squid were cooked nicely, not tough or rubbery, not chewy at all in fact, though with a springy bite to them. The flesh was seasoned lightly to allow the ink in the rice to shine through in flavor, which it did very powerfully. The rice was packed with that murky, sweet, slightly metallic flavor of the ink, was a beautiful jet black in color and had a wonderfully creamy and starchy texture to it, with the individual grains maintaining their al dente bite. The sliver of roasted red pepper didn’t really add anything but color, otherwise the dish was pretty much perfect.
Dátiles Con Tocino, dates wrapped in bacon and deep fried. As I’ve said before, I’m getting a little tired of this combination, as it seems to be an easy crowd-pleaser that has grown increasingly popular in too many restaurants lately. This version was generally too sweet for my blood, with the bacon not holding enough salty, smokey flavor to contrast against the fruity dulzor of the dates. There was also no textural contrast, since the date was mushy and the bacon didn’t really crisp up but remained a bit chewy instead. It would’ve been nice to have a roasted almond stuck in there for extra salt and a crunch. Or better yet to leave this one out altogether…
Next came a long plate with neatly aligned Camarones a la Plancha. Curled up grilled prawns with sea salt and olive oil, plain and simple, with the head, tails and legs kept on. The bodies of the prawns were juicy, not overcooked in the least, and I enjoyed the crunch of the tail and legs, as well as sucking out the buttery smooth yellowish brown brains. The latter was flavored with good coarse sea salt and a bit of mature olive oil, allowing the sweet, murky, very slightly fishy flavor to shine through in full glory.
After the prawns, the Pimientos Del Piquillo Rellenos De Costilla De Buey, which I really was not expecting to be as great as it actually turned out to be. Plump, red Piquillo peppers stuffed with some of the juiciest braised beef short ribs I’ve had in a while. The shredded meat was full of flavor though not over-seasoned, allowing some of the subtle caramelized veggie sweetness of the pepper to seep inside and affect it. The pepper was slippery and smooth, soft and yielding, gliding across the tongue as if to sneak by the teeth before being swallowed. This consistency was contrasted nicely by the stringy but very moist short rib, which added a bit of roughness to the slick vegetable.
We all got pretty excited when the Chuletillas De Cordero Con Vino Tinto got to the table, as they looked and smelled heavenly. The lamb chops were very minimally seasoned before being thrown on the grill and scorched until a nice char developed on the exterior. This slightly bitter char cut the metallic funk of the lamb well, with a red wine sauce adding a great depth of flavor, rounding everything out and keeping the lamb in check. I wish there had been a bit more meat on the bone (must have been a rather young lamb), but what there was was nice and plump, not too chewy once torn off the bone. The meat was served with a mound of creamy, smooth mashed potatoes with which to soak up every drop of the savory wine sauce.
A tapa I had very high hopes for which ended up being pretty underwhelming was the Pulpo a la Plancha, seared baby octopus served with boiled cubes of skinless potato dusted with smoked paprika. The pulpitos were served whole, head-on, which was cute but they were a bit tough and seemed to have been slightly overcooked. I would’ve like them to be marinated or sprinkled with a more garlic-centric sauce to give them some pizzazz, but no such luck. The potatoes were also pretty bland, though buttery soft and given a slight kick (nudge, really…) in the smokey spice direction from the paprika.
I had a great time at Bodega with my friends and will recommend it highly as a place to catch up with ones you haven’t seen in a while, to talk. Not too loud, not too themed, with food that is easy to share, vibrant and interesting. The wine list is almost exclusively Spanish, options given at approachable prices, so even just getting 1-2 tapas and a bottle to share seems like a nice experience, especially on a hot summer night.