100 Best Restaurants 2008: Taberna del Alabardero

No. 24: Taberna del Alabardero

Cuisine: A tour of Spain’s regional cuisines, with rustic, crowd-pleasing tapas and magnificent paellas commanding most of the attention.

Mood: The oxblood-red walls, formal fixtures, and portraits of dons put you in mind of a classic hotel in Madrid. Those suavely accented suits at the next table are likely to be financiers from the nearby World Bank or International Monetary Fund.

Best for: Noshing at the tapas bar weekdays from 3 to 7, when tapas are half price, and special-occasion dining.

Best dishes: From the tapas bar, salpicón de marisco, a ceviche of octopus, scallops, mussels, and shrimp with peppers and onions; chorizo; Serrano-ham croquettes; quail cured in sherry vinegar. From the menu, paella (traditional seafood or with chorizo and chicken); veal sweetbreads with spinach, capers, and potatoes; rabbit with carrots. An all-seafood menu in November featured humble grouper gratinéed to a new level and a pristine sea bream baked in rock salt.

Insider tips: While the happy hour makes the tapas bar one of the city’s best dining deals, seats are few, so arrive early or be prepared to stand. Spain is producing exciting wines, and Taberna remains the best place in town to explore them. The list ranges in style from classic Riojas and sherries to the trendy wines of Priorat, and in price from prestige wines to an impressive array under $50.

Service: •••

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.