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El Mercat Bar de Tapas in Rockville provides Spanish dishes in fashion

Clockwise from high left: Prawns al ajillo with bread, Spanish tortilla and seafood paella at El Mercat Bar de Tapas. Photograph by Lindsey Max

The intoxicating aroma of gambas al ajillo – prawns nestled in piping scorching olive oil infused with garlic, bay leaf, purple chilli and Spanish paprika – arrive at my desk lengthy earlier than the small earthenware pot that comprises it at El Mercat Tapas Bar. Shellfish are completely cooked and kissed with drizzles of lemon juice to impart acidity and reduce the richness of the savory oil, which is swallowed by three slices of toasted bread. This good rendition of a Spanish tapa eve retains good firm with many different tasty dishes on the menu at El Mercat Bar de Tapas, the Rockville City Sq. restaurant opened in January by chef George Rodrigues and his spouse, Wanessa Alves.

“When my spouse noticed the [former] The Gumbo Ya Ya area, we checked it out and fell in love with it,” says Rodrigues. “We felt the Spanish vibes. We dwell 5 minutes away and have been huge La Tasca followers. (This Spanish tapas restaurant closed in Rockville City Sq. in Could 2020.)

Rodrigues, 40, has expertise in Spanish delicacies. After attending culinary college in his native Brazil, he meant to backpack round Europe and work in eating places alongside the way in which earlier than returning house to open a restaurant. As a substitute, a pal informed him a couple of job at Mercat a la Planxa, a Spanish tapas restaurant in Chicago run by celeb chef Jose Garces, the place he labored for 5 years, leaving in 2010. took him to Boston and Washington, DC, working at chef Michael Schlow’s Tico in each places. From 2018 to 2021 he was the chef of the DC tapas restaurant Boqueria.

Alves designed the 1,800-square-foot, 60-seat restaurant, and his title has sentimental worth. Rodrigues proposed to Alves at Barcelona’s enormous open-air market, El Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, in 2015. On a white brick wall, two units of darkish purple shutters body work of Barcelona avenue scenes . One other brick wall shows bottles of wine. Uncovered beams, posts coated with Spanish tiles and a yellow neon signal “Bar de Tapas” contribute to the Barcelona ambiance. (A 28-seat out of doors patio will open when Rodrigues is ready to employees it.)

The menu provides 22 tapas (11 vegetarian, six meat and 5 fish), 4 paellas, three starters and 4 desserts. Among the many specialties we sampled have been the Spanish tortilla, the crispy potato omelet served with a saffron and garlic mayonnaise; patatas bravas, crispy fries with tomato sauce and aioli; cod fritters with aioli; and pork ribs braised in duck fats till ultra-tender, then glazed with apple cider. A seafood paella, its starchy black Spanish bomba rice with squid ink, is filled with mussels, clams, prawns and calamari. One other wonderful paella is made with roast hen and chorizo ​​sausage topped with salsa verde. Each paellas reveal the hallmark of well-made variations of the dish: socarrat, a layer of crispy rice on the backside of the pan. Do not miss the churros full of Nutella for dessert. The 32 bottles of the wine and sherry record are all Spanish. Cocktails and beer are additionally accessible.

El Mercat Tapas Bar, 101 Gibbs Road (Rockville City Sq.), Rockville, 240-403-7436,

Comings and goings

A New York-based bakery and cafe, Maman, plans to open this summer season within the Bethesda Row area that housed Le Ache Quotidien, which closed earlier this 12 months.

Foxtrot, a series of markets and cafes with a number of native outposts, plans to open later this 12 months on Bethesda Row, changing Mussel Bar & Grille, which closed in April.

Bethesda-based sushi chain Raku is planning to open a second Bethesda location in late fall, this one within the Wildwood Mall, which can be referred to as Rakugaki.

A number of meals retailers have introduced plans to open within the Chevy Chase Lake improvement in Chevy Chase. Baltimore-based ice cream chain The Charmery is slated to open this summer season, and fast-food chain Playa Bowls (fruit bowls and smoothies) is planning to open within the fall. Danilo Simic and chef Colin McClimans, homeowners of the Nina Could restaurant in Washington, plan to open the American restaurant Elena James by the tip of 2023.

Hulu Skewer Home, which can supply kebabs and Chinese language meals, hopes to open in late summer season on the former On the Border area in Rockville.

BabyCat Brewery, which can be Kensington’s first brewery, goals to open by the tip of the 12 months.

Little Beet Desk, a restaurant with a gluten-free menu, closed in March in The Assortment procuring space within the Friendship Heights neighborhood of Chevy Chase.

Goldberg’s New York Bagels closed its location within the Potomac’s Cabin John Village in April.

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