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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Monday, Sept. 1, 2014

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Like tapas? Try Espana.
Like tapas? Try Espana.

Trifecta of tasty tapas restaurants

They say that good things come in threes and I now have three favorite tapas restaurants in Milwaukee.

I have been a fan of both La Merenda and Odd Duck for some time, and I have now added Espana Tapas House to the list of great food places that deserve regular and repeated visits.

We were a Espana last week in advance of a play and I was surprised by how good the food and service were. Pleasantly surprised.

The restaurant, on the corner of Wells and Plankinton, has a nice and non-intrusive décor with a number of tables next to windows, which always makes for intriguing activity during dinner.

A meal of tapas, which are small plates of a variety of dishes, can be an adventure, if you are adventurous. The idea behind them is to try a little bit of many dishes and share them around your table.

We started the night off with Ko-Bat, a single skewer with charcoal broiled shrimp, pork, chicken, beef and lamb. The nicest thing about this dish is that each item on the skewer retained it's unique flavor. When broiling it is easy to make everything taste alike.

Also hitting the table was a dish called Gambas al Allio, jumbo shrimp sautéed in garlic, olive oil, chili flakes, lemon juice and fresh parsley. It was wonderful and with fresh, still warm, bread to sop up the sauce, it was a special treat.

Also on our menu were grilled asparagus and cold red potatoes with a homemade aioli.

The star of the night, however were dates stuffed with goat cheese and wrapped in Serrano ham and grilled under a broiler. I marveled at the dish and couldn't help but wonder how easy or difficult it would be to make it at home.

We had a waiter, Tony Aleniz, who who was very attentive without being intrusive and he kept the dishes coming without any long delays. He was also very knowledgeable in his explanation of dishes. He complimented us on our choices and I asked if he had ever warned people off any items. He assured me he had.

A tapas meal is a lot like what Mark Twain said about the weather. "If you don't like it, just wait a minute, it will change."

At most restaurants if you order a dish, but don't particularly like it, you're stuck. At a tapas restaurant wildly different flavors keep coming so you are never stuck with something you don't like.

After some early struggles, Espana Milwaukee has truly gotten its act together and has joined the elite of this city's small plate restaurants.

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