Small plates deliver big flavor at Mill Creek tapas restaurant

  • Wed Jan 11th, 2012 3:26pm
  • Life

By Jackson Holtz Herald Writer

Tapas for me will forever be connected to the narrow alleys of Seville, Spain.

That’s where I first really experienced the Spanish concept of small plate treats.

Petite portions of cured meats, roasted vegetables and succulent seafood came one after another, accompanied by sangria, a refreshing fruit punch made from red wine.

Tablas Woodstone Taverna in Mill Creek Town Center evokes Spain in its decor and menu.

Owned by the same people who run Demetri’s in Edmonds and Kafe Neo, Tablas quickly has become a popular spot. The dining room, accented by a rich and warm color palette, bustles. A gas-burning fireplace welcomes diners, and the scent of a wood-fired oven wafts through the room, along with hints of roasting garlic and rosemary.

Shelves lined with colorful tagines separate the open kitchen from the bar area; a children’s play area nestles into a corner of the dining room by the washrooms.

Since tapas is about sharing, I encouraged a small group of friends to join me. We were four adults and one 2½-year-old.

The lengthy menu was developed using the chef’s grandmother’s recipes, our waitress told us. Almost the entire menu is prepared in-house, the exception being imported cheeses, olives and cured meats.

There are no traditional main courses here. Everything is served as a small plate priced from $7 to $9.

For people who can’t decide, there are suggested assortments, or you can follow the advice of the server and do what we did: Choose about two plates per person.

Options included a list of oven-roasted, grilled, fried, cold, soups and salads, plus a dozen different flatbreads, each with a different combination of toppings.

Of the 10 dishes we tried, I liked the Serrano ham and excalivada roule ($9), three packets of roasted vegetables wrapped in a smoky, flavorful slice of Spanish ham. The Dungeness crab-stuffed artichoke hearts ($9) came topped with melted cheese and bread crumbs. If only there was a side of bread to mop up the bits of melted cheese left behind.

Patatas bravas, spicy fried Yukon gold potatoes ($7), were crisp and tender and had just enough heat. The baked giant beans with chorizo sausage ($9) brought out the earthiness of the fava beans in a nice contrast to the spicy bites of meat.

The flat breads are like very thin-crusted rectangular pizzas. They were a hit with the toddler, especially the bread topped with roasted garlic, oregano and Parmesan cheese ($8). A second try with spicy chicken, harrisa and mozzarella ($9) wasn’t as good.

We tried three skewers, chicken ($7), shrimp ($8) and bacon-wrapped shrimp ($9), all fresh and tasty. The calamari ($9) also was a hit with the toddler, but nothing to rave about.

A dozen desserts, each $3, were presented on a large tray. Of the three we sampled, the Cointreau-laced chocolate mousse was the best. A tiny pomegranate cheesecake was sweet and decadent, but I couldn’t detect a strong pomegranate flavor. The strawberry mousse had an odd sour tang, possibly from yogurt, but I couldn’t help wonder if it was spoiled cream. The woman busing our table wasn’t certain either.

Although definitely casual, the service at Tablas could have been a bit more attentive and prompt. Our waitress was pleasant and friendly but forgot a couple of dishes, presented the dessert tray while one person was in the washroom, and was slow to check in, drawing our meal out. That’s fine for adults, but our toddler faded well before the bill arrived.

While the dishes are small, their price adds up quickly. Next time I go, and I would definitely return, I’d probably order a bit more strategically, searching for true Spanish originals and shying away from Americanized stand-ins.

Enjoy the sangria, and don’t forget to raise your glass, “Salud!”

Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3447; jholtz@heraldnet.com.

Tablas Woodstone Taverna

15522 Main St., Mill Creek; 425-948-7654; www.tablaswt.com.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

Specialty: Spanish tapas.

Alcohol: Full bar.

Vegetarian: Plenty of options.