This tapas restaurant is the sister of a Madrid institution.
A shop-house done over with patterned tiles and tasteful Spanish accents, this tapas restaurant lays claim to one of Thonglor’s best bang-for-baht nights out. To stand out in a city now teeming with affordable, Spanish foodie-endorsed restaurants, El Tapeo talks up authenticity through a sister relationship with El Rinconcito de Juan, a decade-old restaurant in Madrid.
But even without knowledge of that lineage, it’s easy to appreciate that this colorful, casual spot is onto a good thing. A well-stocked bar sits behind a wooden counter, which greets guests with displays of delectable pintxos (small bar snacks). Littered with colorful ceramics, decorative wine bottles and the odd cliched photograph, the three stories do an admirable job of transporting you to a Spanish taberna—something not even the views of Eight Thonglor mall can diminish.
Daily happy hours (5-8pm) that get you 50-percent off one-liter pitchers of sangria (otherwise B550) set a boozy foundation for a menu of Spanish classics, from tostas (open sandwiches) and cold cuts to cazuelas (clay casseroles) and paella, most of which explode with the vitality of good produce. The tostas of pickled anchovies with tomato (B195) packs a zingy sharpness atop bread that’s crispy yet light and fluffy. The spinach and cheese croquetas (B150/5 pieces) are intensely savory morsels that burst forth with bechamel, while the gambas al ajillo (B150) sees bouncy prawns elevated by little crisp shards of garlic. With the delicious huevos rotos (“broken eggs,” B250), El Tapeo excels in simplicity: gooey fried egg, serrano ham and strings of garlic-sauteed fish surimi atop homemade fries so thin they resemble crisps.
It’s a flavor-packed high the strangely subdued (and aioli-free) patatas bravas (B150) can’t quite measure up to. Nor can the arroz negro (B850 for 2-3 people), a seafood paella in all but name in which rice dyed black by squid ink sets the backdrop for hefty prawns and mussels. The creamy rice brimming with seafood notes conceals chewy chunks of squid, and while we’d argue the burnt base falls short of crunchy, caramelized socarrat perfection, an aioli helps keep the dish moist and adds a moreish garlic bite.
The food’s complemented by a wine list that’s not only long but cheap, with the mostly Spanish bottles starting from B690 and by-the-glass at B150. Even if the food’s not quite as innovative or chef-driven as Broken Eggs or Arroz, El Tapeo makes an undeniably appealing option for dinner and drinks that won’t empty your wallet. Corkage B400
This review took place in November 2017 and is based on a visit to the restaurant without the restaurant's knowledge. For more on BK's review policy, click here.