During a road trip, I once stopped for tea at a small shack on the outskirts of a dusty little town. The owner placed a small piece of paper on top of my glass with a biscuit on it. It was a way of keeping the tea hot and ensuring that no flying elements took an uninvited dip in it. It worked. I took a sip of my tea, and, in that unlikely place, thought about the origins of tapas in Spain.
And here’s why. Tapas, as we all know, are Spain’s much-loved finger food. The word tapa means a lid, and legend has it that a drink at a pub came with a piece of bread or cheese covering the rim in earlier times in Spain, possibly to keep the flies at bay.
I have always loved tapas — simple ones such as salsa on sourdough or olives as well as the more elaborate ones such as calamari or jamon Iberico pata negra. So, I was happy when I learnt about a new restaurant in town — called Amaltas Indian tapas and bar. Interestingly, tapas here are regional dishes that have been innovatively tweaked. For instance, on the menu are banana flower tempura and small prawns flavoured with Bengal’s gondharaj lemon.
The well-lit and airy restaurant in the M Block Market of Greater Kailash 2 has a pleasing décor that toasts the wonders of Nature. I entered a restaurant after a long, long time, and had a nice tapas-filled lunch.
The opener was a jalebi chat – a savoury jalebi, topped with spicy yoghurt, chutney, sev and pomegranate. The crunch of the jalebi complemented the sweet-and-sour toppings, and I enjoyed it thoroughly, almost as much as the Kalimpong cheese tart, creamy cheese custard in a small pastry shell, served with a dollop of Bengal’s mildly sweet tomato chutney.
The Amdavad special sandwich was interesting. Inspired by handvo, a Gujarati fermented rice and lentil batter dish, this gluten-free sandwich was stuffed with spiced potatoes and topped with crunchy sev.
The Kachampuli chicken wings – with the strong flavour of the tart kachampuli – didn’t appeal to me much, but I loved the meat bhaji with pao, a tasty keema patty, topped with a fried egg, and served with toasted pao.
The chocolate and jaggery pot au crème was sublime, as was the salted caramel kheer (barnyard millet cooked in milk, with jaggery and salted caramel). The menu includes small and big plates – with dishes such as sweet corn momos with lebu broth, onion samosas, pulled pork samosas, mutton pepper roast and broccoli makhani. A meal for two should cost Rs 2,000 or so.
Tapas make for satisfying meals. The flavours and taste vary, and you don’t get a heavy I’ve-eaten-too-much feeling at the end of the meal. Not surprisingly, young restaurant goers are greatly fond of tapas, especially since these dishes can be eaten throughout the day. Finger food, indeed, can be finger-licking good.