The tradition of eating small portions of food along with drinking wine — known as Tapas — is something that comes from a long way back.
As the story goes, years ago in Cádiz, King Alfonso XIII, during an official visit to the southern Spainish seaside town asked for a cup of Jerez, Spanish wine from the area.
It was a windy afternoon. Suddenly the wind blew by the window, bringing a heap of sand along with it. A waiter swiftly covered the king’s wine glass with a slice of ham.
The King then asked why he did that and the waiter answered, “It was a ‘tapa’ [cover] because of the sand”.
Apparently the King liked the idea, ordering more wine with the food cover afterward. Ever since then the tradition of eating small portions of food along with drinking wine has been recognized as Tapas.
It was one of several anecdotes behind the Spanish gastronomy custom revealed by Chef Manuel Verdaguer.
“Eating tapas is about fresh and high quality products, paying special attention to fish and seafood, fresh vegetables and meat. It is also about variety. Tapas is about tasting different flavors in one lunch or dinner,” he says.
Tapas bars are popular worldwide, including in neighboring Singapore where there are now up to ten Tapas bars.
Although the plating style comes close to that of a Padang restaurant and the food taste is similar to Italian cuisine, Tapas is not yet a very popular concept in Jakarta.
With approximately 200 Spaniards residing here, they can only find their hometown flavor at two places in Jakarta. Tapas Movida, run by Verdaguer, is one of them.
“I opened a Tapas restaurant in Jakarta because I saw a loophole in the market. Spanish cuisine is some of the best in the world but nobody seems to really know this,” justified the half-English half-Spanish chef who has pursued his career as a chef since the age of 16.
Tapas come in many varieties. Northern Spain is famous for pinchos, food served individually usually on a slice of bread, with meat and vegetables as the main ingredients.
Going south to the Andalucía region, raciones are more popular. This food to share and is usually stuffed with seafood. In central Spain the snack is dominated by ham and cheese, including the croquetas ( croquettes ) and albondigas ( meatballs ).
The newly opened bar serves all those, in addition to another Spanish gastronomy icon paella ( rice dish ) served in a pan, which is enough to share among four. You can choose whether to have yellow rice seafood, chicken, or vegetables paella.
The best selection of jamón ( ham ) delivered directly from Spain is another recommendation. You can have the finest Spanish ham of Serrano and Ibérico served simply with olive oil and let them speak for themselves.
Diners could also go for Gazpacho soup, another famous Spanish dish from Andalucía, which is served cold, as people normally have it in summer.
The best way to enjoy Tapas is with sangria ( wine punch ).
At Tapas Movida, they mix Spanish red wine with slices of fruit, including orange and apple. You can also share the drink as sangria is served in a jug.
For those who don’t drink alcohol, Chef Verdaguer recommends you to enjoy the food with tea or lemon tea.
As many dishes are meant to be shared, people take pleasure in eating tapas as a social culinary custom. In Spain itself, many Tapas restaurants serve the food on a bar where people can take anything they would like to eat while having conversation. Although they serve by the table in Tapas Movida, it is better not to come alone.
As you enter the front door you face a stage with an iconic backdrop. The big picture of a flamenco dancer and a torero ( Spanish bullfighter ) fortifies what kind of restaurant you step into.
The homey indoor dining area is decorated with a bar and more Spanish attributes such as the national football jersey, an Osborne bull painting and smaller flamenco dancer portraits.
An outdoor area with a mosaic seating design like Gaudi’s Park Güell gives is festivity for the eyes as your imagination wanders far away to Barcelona.
Food is the main enticement, but experiencing Spanish culture is another.
As Verdaguer said, “My target market is anyone who likes to try new food and new experiences.”
The restaurant, which opened its door in mid-July, is currently looking for a Spanish band, flamenco dancers and singers and any other Spanish entertainment.
Indulge not only in the cuisine, but enjoy the new dining experience as well. Ole!
Jl. Cipete Raya 66, South Jakarta
— Photos Courtesy of Tapas Movida