The Spanish concept of tapas is one that captures the imagination of anyone who sits down to enjoy a cocktail in Spain. In essence, a tapa, is an appetizer, but in Spain, the style in which they go about it is different.
Here in The United States we take dining at a quicker pace. Across the Atlantic in Spain, and in many of the countries surrounding the Mediterranean, meal time is taken very seriously. The process is far more casual, relaxed, lengthy, with a heavy focus on good company, and plenty of libations.
Bars and restaurants throughout Spain take varying approaches to the tapa. In some smalls bars you may find only olives alongside your cocktail, but in some, you may encounter a full size sandwich. The Spanish even have a verb to describe going out for drinks, and appetizers: Tapear.
Tapas style restaurants are not new, but the recent concept La Dulce, in Royal Oak, has sweetened the deal. Right when you walk in the interior decor sets you back a few steps. Its a welcoming blend of Alice and Wonderland, and the Palace at Versailles. It seems like a place to easily, and happily get lost in a few cocktails.
We sat down with owner Luis Negrete-Escobedo, and his brother, Juan Carlos, who is the Executive Chef, a few weeks back to discuss his new restaurant, the interior, and a couple of other things in between.
“The interior is a mix of French and Spanish design. We wanted to create a new concept that incorporates classic French style with a modern chic Spaniard twist. We want to represent European culture through the food and design. Most of our furniture and wall panels were made in Galicia, Spain and the whole concept was designed by the very talented Gaspar Sobrino,” Luis said.
The brothers are both originally from Mexico, but Spain’s allure, and it’s unique food culture captured both their imaginations.
“After traveling to Spain and falling in love with the food and the culture, I became fascinated with tapas and the idea of having a casual shared meal that can last several hours with great company, and lots of drinks. Also, Juan lived in Spain for several years and worked in different restaurants in Galicia and Andalucía, he is fascinated by the tapas concept and it’s social aspect,” Luis continued.
On the menu you will find a great deal of traditional Spanish fare, but the menu will provide some exciting plot twists, and will continue to evolve.
“In our menu we are trying to give the diner a taste of Spain, from a typical yet refreshing Andalusian gazpacho to the hearty Asturian fabada. We are using the highest quality ingredients from across Spain, we want to best represent each region. For example, we bring in Pata Negra Ham from Extremedura, and anchovies from Cantabria,” Luis said.
“One of our star items will be the churros which are made from an old family recipe from Castilla Leon, right in the heart of Spain. We have gone to great heights to import an authentic Spanish churrera (machine that makes churros) in order to make them the traditional way,” Head chef Juan Carlos added.
Over the course of 3 hours we enjoyed specialty cocktails infused with flavors from Mexico City to Madrid, kind service from a very attentive staff, and a feast prepared by Juan Carlos.
“Love for good food and great cooking runs in my family. From my grandmothers delectable Mexican recipes I learned the joy of cooking. After living in several countries and learning about international cuisines it woke up a fire in me to pursue this further. I immersed myself in the culinary world and starting working from kitchen to kitchen all over Spain.” Juan Carlos said.
La Dulce serves as a conduit to another time, culture, and place, but despite an interior hand-crafted in Spain, somehow, you feel like you are at home.
La Dulce, 115 South Main Street, Royal Oak
All photos by Stephanie Hume