100 Best Restaurants 2009: Taberna del Alabardero

No. 44: Taberna del Alabardero

Cuisine: Taberna has been a mainstay of classic Old World cuisine, but since taking over a year ago, chef Dani Arana has lightened the menu, pointing up Spain’s relationship with the sea as well as its earthy indulgences in organ meats.

Mood: The red room, with its domed private rotunda in view, teeters between baroquely romantic and nightclub VIP lounge. The subdued noise level tips the balance toward the romantic.

Best for: Promising second or third dates; upscale after-work celebrations; lovers of good sherry.

Best dishes: Among recent tapas: olive-oil-drizzled toasts with anchovy and avocado or pork tenderloin and poached egg; cevichelike salpicon of mussels, scallops, octopus, and shrimp; sausage-stuffed peppers. From the dining menu: braised oxtail; sautéed sweetbreads, scallops, and wild mushrooms (an appetizer rich enough for a light meal); veal-tongue carpaccio; grouper au gratin. If you want paella, try the wild-mushroom veggie version.

Insider tips: International regulars know to indulge in happy-hour tapas, all half price in the lounge area from 3 to 6 pm weekdays.

Service: •••½

Open Monday through Friday for lunch and dinner, Saturday for dinner. Expensive.

See all of 2009's 100 Best Restaurants

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.