Last weekend Chef Annette visited from L.A. so I took her to my favorite Spanish hideaway – Casa Vicente.
When you walk inside, Tucson fades a million miles away even though Casa Vicente sits in Armory Park or what is considered, downtown adjacent.
There are two rooms, one nearer the stage and the other in the bar. Although nearer the stage area is larger, it appears cozier with intimate table settings, exposed brick walls and paintings of Spain’s seaside.
Upon seating, complimentary roasted potatoes with two sauces — aioli and spicy red are brought to the table while we perused the lengthy menu.
What I like about Casa Vicente besides the great service and delicious food is that you can have it served as an entrée or smaller plates of tapas. If you like a lot of tastes like I do, tapas is the way to go.
We began with a liter of red sangria. Normally, too sweet, this sangria tasted adult, a deep red wine capturing the firm flavors of the grape and perhaps some spice, maybe a clove. We forgot to ask the well-informed waiter.
Our reservations were for 6:30 p.m. and were promptly seated. By 8 p.m. there was a wait for tables and the joint was jumping. In this crappy economy, it does my heart good to see that some restaurants are still packing them in.
Our waiter was attentive and the room filled with energetic wait staff. I’ve noticed restaurants cut their staff which affects the service but not here. A whirl of activity ensued and swelled above the live Spanish guitar music and even the pounding flamenco dancing.
We finally narrowed our selection to four tapas – three baby lamb chops with mint, cold spinach frittata, fried eggplant, and baby scallops in broth. Fortunately, they were brought out in stages so leisurely eating gave us time to talk and watch people and the plates of food being served around us. The chops were perfectly grilled and the eggplant grease free. Annette was not crazy about the frittata, which meant I could eat it all.
For dessert, Annette ordered a traditional Spanish almond torte which wasn’t a torte at all. It was more like a pie shaped sliver of lemon bar that was more almond-y than lemony and not cloyingly sweet like most lemon bars. It was a simple but elegantly light dessert after tapas.
Vicente and family have created an authentic dining experience in the heart of Tucson. Thank you.
Chef Annette has a hands-on cooking school in Manhattan Beach, Calif.