26 October 2011

Eating tapas across the street from Macy's

Ondo’s Tapas Bar at Cherry Creek

Just a half-story beneath the street is a calm, chic haven from the shopping madness that is Cherry Creek.  Its spare, boldly colored décor and flamenco guitar music, while corny-sounding, is rather pleasant, and the wall fountain cleverly disguising the concrete wall that lines the front “patio” is as inviting an eating area as anything I’ve experienced in Denver. Ondo’s offers a menu exclusively comprised of tapas, heavy on the Northern Spanish culinary influence, carafes if homemade sangria, and clever twists in classic cocktails.  Sounds like a nice place after a long work week to gather with friends, right?  It is.

Cute patio at Ondo's.

Happy hour, which runs from 4-6:30pm weekdays, is worth going early: half-off sangria and 2$ pintxos (individual portions of tapas) served under glass domes at the bar encourages the spirit of taking you time and sampling at a great discount.

Northern Spanish cuisine is not exceptionally bright or spicy in flavor, but what Ondo’s does with mild staple ingredients like potato and egg is well-balanced and finely executed.  It really is a lot of egg and potato, though.  And lots of ham and cheese, as well.  I found the tapas I tried to be satisfying, but nothing knocked me over the head or caused obsessive research on my part to find out how to recreate the recipe.  I ate egg and potato torta on a piece of bread, Serrano ham and manchego cheese, Monte Enebro cheese with quince paste, pecans, and honey (that was a good one!),  and chick peas in a mild broth with little bits of charred chorizo.  They were all tasty, but I think I can make them at home.  That is not to say you shouldn’t go to Ondo’s; there is certainly a value in appreciating someone else’s high standards and letting them do the dishes.  I’m just warning you that you will not learn new truths about the universe from anything you try here.

Our exceptionally competent waitress (really--whoever you were serving the girl with the glasses and her bald husband, you deserve a raise) informed us that Ondo’s is particularly known for their cured meats and croquetas, and I appreciate the tip.  Their lomo (salt-cured pork) had a salty, briny taste you cannot easily pick up at Safeway, and the croquetas were a marvel of creamed spinach and pine nuts encased in the most delicate batter I have ever seen, deep fried to crisp perfection.  If I can amend my previous statement, that was the one recipe that boggled my mind, for sheer execution alone.  These were definitely the two stars on our table.

Serrano ham and manchego cheese tapas

The sangria was fine; the red wine is freshened with sparkling water and has some chopped green apple in it.  I always prefer harder stuff, but it seemed more socially acceptable before a long drive back to Greeley, and it complimented everything I ate just fine.  Everything we ate was well prepared with high-quality ingredients.  It was dressed up comfort food, to my taste, but along with the clean, urban atmosphere and peaceful, very knowledgeable service, it was a nice night out.  And we still made it home in time for Law and Order.