Ever since living and studying in Barcelona during my undergrad years, I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for the peninsular nation. I don’t know if it was the warm people (especially the andaluces), the lovely historical sights, or the fantastic food, but I miss living there. Back in the States, I would always try to find new places to get tapas to see how they measured up to the ones back in Spain, and I was generally pleased (See Tapa 1, 2, Patatas). Perhaps when I’m finished with my time here in Korea, I might make a return to the land of jamon and Don Simon. However, since I’m still in Korea, I thought I had found a slice of Espana in the form of Que Tal Tapas which is located in Bupyeong in Incheon. In order to get there you have to go to Bupyeong Market exit 2 and walk for about ten minutes until you look down a side street on your left. Here’s the front of the restaurant to get an idea of what to look out for:
So I had originally thought of going to this place for my birthday since I love Spanish food, but instead I ended up going to the wonderful Action Grill. Therefore, I vowed to one day try this taperia before I left the Land of the Morning Calm. I finally made the sojourn yesterday with a fellow KOTESOL member after attending the smallest teaching conference ever with a whopping total of three people including me. The interior had some nice, kooky drawings along with various types Spanish paraphernalia hanging on the wall. That’s about where everything “Spanish” about this place ended. First, there was the menu. It took me flipping through five pages of pizza, spaghetti, and risotto dishes to finally get to the tapas. While Spain and Italy might occupy the same language family and are both ballin’ peninsulas, a Spanish restaurant should not have more types of pizza than tapas. I did see that they had paella as well, but it was well tucked away like the tapas. The tapas that they offered ranged from 4,000-6,000 W, and they were quite uninspired creations. Not only were they almost all seafood creations, but somehow bruschetta made it on the menu. I sincerely hope they were referring to pan amb tomaquet or else the owners need a serious culinary geography lesson. My friend and I decided to get the pizza set for 35,000 W which was a great deal since we got the following: either a Margherita or verde pizza, two 4,000 W tapas, one 6,000 W tapa, and two drinks which could be soda, coffee, house wine, or an ade. For our combo, we got the verde pizza, tortilla espanola, cooked mushrooms, roasted shrimp, and two glasses of the house wine.The first items that came out were the mushrooms along with the two glasses of wine.
I found the wine to be quite pedestrian as it was of the dry red variety, but it was fine since the mushrooms were quite vivacious in terms of flavor. They seemed to be sauteed with some type of beef stock infused with pepper and had a slight woody aftertaste.
These hongos were garnished with a fried egg on the side which they told us to dip the pieces into, and there were some fresh dandelion greens on top along with some savory purple olives I enjoyed. Unfortunately, this was the only plate that wowed us, so it was somewhat depressing in hindsight to know that we reached the apex of the meal after one tapa. After the mushrooms came my nemesis in Spanish cuisine: la tortilla. Now, when most people hear the word, “tortilla” they automatically think that I was just munching on some flatbread instead of making a taco like a normal person. Of course I would hate it if I did that, but a tortilla in Spain is actually more like an omelet with potatoes inside. When I lived in Barcelona, I thought it was flavorless and nothing special. Que Tal tapas managed to recreate this signature blandness even more so by having a higher potato:egg ratio in comparison to the real thing.
Why they would serve us such a demure tasting plate after the bold mushrooms is beyond me. The penultimate entry in this pageant of mediocrity was the grilled shrimp. Here I was thinking, “Que bien! Me encantan gambas al ajillo!” (Oh good! I love grilled shrimp!), but I was in for a rude awakening.
While I admired their presentation, I don’t think I’ve ever consumed such terrible shrimp in my life. Not only was the texture of the meat extremely chewy to an unsettling degree, but they had an almost chemical-esque flavor to them. I tried another shrimp after the first just to see if I had picked a bad one. Nope. Basura (garbage). As if this train wreck of a dinner couldn’t get any more interesting, they brought out our verde pizza. I wondered what made it “verde” (green) when ordering it, and I could see it got its moniker from the mini-garden that was chilling out on top of the actual pizza.
Our waitress then said to us, “Roll” while gesticulating towards the pizza. This was very disconcerting since I’ve never heard anyone tell me to roll my pizza. I could see why she said this when I went for a piece. It was incredibly thin, had no cheese, and was just mushrooms and the greens.
The only way you could eat it without getting half the contents on your pants was like a taco. I know you fold NYC-style pizza in order to eat it better, but this pizza was just ridiculous.
The taste didn’t even justify its unique consumption style. While I always appreciate an opportunity to up my fresh vegetable intake, the mushrooms were tasteless and the dough was a non-factor. This pizza was the equivalent of “that” drunk person at the holiday office party. The pizza looked like it would be a good time initially, but after spilling itself all over my hands and being really annoying to eat, I never wanted to see it again.
In the end, don’t go to Que Tal Tapas if you’re looking for a real tapas experience. It’s the culinary equivalent of Don Quijote fighting the windmills. It tries really hard but fails every time.