Espana - Fernandina Beach, FL
Tapas. Spanish tapas. Nothing truly invites a sense of family and togetherness than tapas. It was no surprise then that my MIL wanted to take The Prof and I to this quaint restaurant located in historic Downtown Fernandina Beach. It was a fabulous experience and I am so glad that she surprised us.
When you first walk in you are immediately welcomed by the scent of great food throughout the restaurant. It's a very warm and inviting yet cozy atmosphere. We started out with the complimentary bread and dipping oil. Although not a great photo -- I decided to go noir since the lighting was dark -- it was a truly awesome mixture. The balsamic vinaigrette was perfectly acidic and balanced out the richness of the olive oil. The bread was crispy and soft and was a great way to enjoy the dip.
Our first official course was tapas, of course. Above was the Chorizo Encebollado, which was sautéed sliced Portuguese sausage and onions. I only had a small bite because it was spicy. But the small bite I had was delicious. The sausage had a great sear to it and the onions added a great crunch. It was served in a brandy sauce so there was some sweetness from that complimented the smoky sausage. I would have eaten more if I could stand the heat. We also shared the Picadinho (below left), which was the pork tenderloin medallions marinated and braised in a brown sauce. The pork was tender and the sauce was delightfully sweet.
The Prof went with the Solomillo con Cabrales for his entree (above right). It's their grilled beef tenderloin that's served with a blue cheese sauce. I will first start off by saying, if I haven't yet, that I am not a fan of blue cheese. I am just one of those people that really can't get past the scent. However, being the ever adventurous foodie that I am, I tried it anyway and it was AMAZING! The beef was super tender and moist. The Prof commented that this was the best steak he has ever had. I would agree. You could have eaten it without the sauce, but the sauce was very tasty. It was a mild blue cheese, perhaps because it was a Spanish blue cheese (cabrales). I am going to try cooking with this cheese myself and see if I have a change of heart.
I ordered the the seafood paella. I have many fond memories of eating seafood paella as a kid at this now closed restaurant in Hermosa Beach, CA called the Hermosa Fishmarket Cafe. It was owned and operated by a Vietnamese family and no matter how long it had been since my last visit they always treated me like family. And the food was to die for. It truly is the paella I compare all other paellas to. Espana's was pretty tasty in comparison. It was prepared and served in a traditional paella pan and there was ample food to eat even with just an order for one. The rice was perfectly cooked and there was plenty of seafood throughout every bite: clams, scallops, calamari, fish and mussels. Everything was very fresh and cooked perfectly. My favorite bite had to be the calamari because it was tender and well seasoned.
Of course I had to end the meal with dessert and there's nothing better than the ever traditional flan. It was delicious and tasted sweeter than usual, which I enjoyed. It was firm yet custardy soft. The caramel sauce was reduced to the right texture and added to the sweetness of the dish.
Overall Espana is a great tapas restaurant. I definitely want to go back and try the other tapas on the menu, like the ceviche and seared calamari. Do plan ahead and make reservations. It was a great way to start off a vacation in Florida. Thanks MIL!