[eat] Tapas increíbles–review of La Republicana @ Zaragoza, Spain

Think Spanish food and what comes first to your mind? Lots, indeed. Spanish food is among the best known in the world, not only for its level of yumminess but also for its incredible diversity. Varied climates and terrains mean that a myriad of different vegetables are grown. While lamb, beef and chicken abound, Spain’s extended coastline brings seafood to the country’s gastronomic scene. Most importantly, perhaps, is the influence of different cultures embedded in Spanish cooking: Roman & Greek (where else do you think olive oil and wine came from?), Moorish (gazpacho, baby, it’s the gazpacho), Jewish (stew in olla), and Christian (SPANISH HAM!). Paella, croquetas, tortilla española, jamon, chorizo, churros, sangria… even the name sound exciting already.

However, if you can only choose ONE type of Spanish food to savour, stick with tapas. Everyone knows what tapas mean, but in plain English: a variety of Spanish appetizers, served hot or cold, which make you very happy after tasting and keep you longing for more. Good thing is that you can find tapas bars everywhere in the world, but in Spain, tapas have been perfected into real cuisine.

When we were in Spain, the sheer density of tapas bars per square kilometer was confusing and intimidating. As visitors, we of course wanted to find a real gem among this multitude of establishments. After failing to make it to one of Girona’s best tapas bars (according to TripAdvisor), we decided to avenge our loss by heading to La Republicana–arguably the most popular and the best place to enjoy tapas in Zaragoza the next day.

Are you saying, No way they are tapas, they look more like pastries? No sir, you are looking at La Republicana’s incredible tapas set. Not just jam and melon, or olives with anchovies, or battered and fried tiny squid, tapas here are a delightful blend of their Spanish roots with a modern twist. It is no wonder why La Republicana is practically packed full of eager customers, most of whom are Spaniards–who, of course, know better than us when it comes to their own cuisine.

The restaurant has 13-14 (?) tapas on offer but I highly recommend you go with the set (8 tapas for 13.5 euro or 12 for 18, if I remember correctly). The bf and I (I don’t think we need to remind you that we both have HUGE appetites) put our trust in latter set and a jug of margarita (15 euro) and ended up in a tipsy state of divine rapture.

This is like 2 liters of margarita…. Jolly good, but drink at your own risk if you have low alcohol tolerance. This liquid was addictive and deceptively smooth:

The star of the show was indeed the tapas, however. They came out looking gorgeous and utterly cute (I dare you not adore that uber pretty ‘Caramelized onion and blue cheese’ with a cherry on top (bottom row, second from right) or the ferrero-look-alike ‘Mudéjar’ aka ‘Mushroom with rice’ (top row, first from left). After screeching and taking a good look at every single item, the bf and I finally proceeded to second base, that is, shared and savored these fine creations.

Just one word: amazing. Simply amazing. The variety in texture and flavors, in ingredients, in the temperature of serving continued to amaze our tastebuds. Everything was there: from crispy empanada, to flaky pastry, to soft and mushy mashed potato with hake, to velvety taro-egg-gazpacho; we were taken on a roller coaster of flavors as there were codfish, tuna, ham, chorizo, chicken, pepper, olives, to name a few, present. And did I mention those small touches that added a bit of edge to La Republicana’s tapas? A sunny side up quail egg, cream cheese on top of a deep fried tuna ball, red cherry to go with pungent blue cheese–such perks were not just for decorative purpose, but they did enhance the taste in surprising ways.

I can’t recommend La Republicana enough. The restaurant is always busy, but the staff are extremely helpful, polite and all-smiling. The food, of course, cannot be beat and are quite innovative. Oh and the price is truly reasonable. If only the restaurant expanded its reach beyond Zaragoza and Spain.

La Republicana, Calle de Casto Méndez Núñez, 38, 50003 Zaragoza, Spain


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