Last night Justin and I met our friends Natalie and Grant at Malaga for drinks and tapas. I was excited to try it, since tapas are my favorite way to eat. I love to eat at great restaurants, especially if they have small portions that leave you wanting to taste just a bit more. I find that when I’m served a large portion of something, I get taste fatigue…I’m tired of the dish halfway through. There are plenty of places in Austin that serve smaller portions (Mars, Wink, Zoot…), but tapas bars guarantee that you’ll get little tastes of several dishes, and they’re all about sharing.
Malaga is a beautiful place, long and narrow with a large bar and a wine cellar feel to it. The tables are small, set with tiny forks and napkins, candles, and just enough room for your drinks and each tapas centerpiece.
We ordered drinks first. Natalie and Grant ordered Malajitos, Malaga’s version of the classic Mojito. They were refreshing, bursting with lime and mint. Justin had the Mexican Shaker, a mix of Hornitos, Grand Marnier, Cointreau, fresh lemon and lime with a salted rim and a couple of olives. This one wasn’t my favorite, only because I could smell the olives when taking a sip. Justin loved it, though. I ordered The Kristen, a pink lemonade with vodka that was so delicious, I hardly knew there was alcohol in it. This can be said of all the drinks, actually…they were sweet and flavorful without a heavy liquor taste.
Next came the tapas.
From top to bottom:
Tempura Salmon Skewers with Red Chile Pesto
This was a brand new dish that was being tested yesterday. The salmon was perfectly cooked inside a layer of light tempura batter spiked with almonds, and was topped with a flavorful red chile concoction reminiscent of Tabasco. Chef Alejandro Duran stopped by our table to see how we liked the dish…I think our empty plates and smiling faces said enough. This was one of my favorites, so say a little prayer that it gets permanently added to the menu.
Composed of flavorful layers of potatoes, onions, and piquillo peppers, and held together with egg, this tortilla was so flavorful. The garlic aioli and romesco sauce drizzled on top were the perfect complement.
Portobellos Alinados con Vinagre Balsamico
One perfect portobello mushroom, marinated in an herbed balsamic vinaigrette and topped with shaved Manchego cheese. Very tasty, with a nice meaty texture.
Queso de Cabra Frito
Flavorful, creamy goat cheese in a crispy crust, drizzled with honey and served with a sweet red onion marmalade. I’m not a big goat cheese fan, but it was perfect with the sweet, sweet onions.
From top to bottom:
Pincho de Chorizo, Queso, y Fruta
A well-balanced plate with grapes, apple slices, Mancheco cheese slices, Spanish chorizo slices, and crumbled Mahon cheese.
Piquillos Rellenos de Brandade de Bacalao
This was one of my favorites (second only to the salmon skewers)…sweet roasted pimientos stuffed with a creamy mixture of cod, mashed potatoes, shallots, and garlic, and topped with Manchego cheese. The filling was so perfectly seasoned, and complemented the roasted pepper perfectly.
These crunchy turnovers were filled with spinach, mushrooms, and Mahon cheese. Perhaps the best part was the spicy tomato sauce that came with them…full of roasty goodness and a bit of heat.
Unfortunately, we didn’t try any desserts, though the Pastel de Tres Leches was pretty tempting. Each dish was reasonably priced, between five and seven dollars, and drinks hovered around seven dollars each. Also available were plenty of wines by the glass, bottles of wine, and beer. Malaga also offers a happy hour pairing from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m Monday through Saturday, in which you can get a glass of wine and one tapas plate (from a selected list) for $6.00.
We’ll definitely keep Malaga at the top of our list for dining-out options…you should, too!
Malaga Tapas and Bar
208 West 4th Street
Monday – Tuesday 5pm to 12am
Wednesday – Saturday 5pm to 2am
Closed on Sundays