Tapas, otherwise known as “small plates”, have become a special treat to many of us, who have fallen in love with the Spanish flavors blended into smaller plates of meats and fish, allowing us to eat what we call appetizer-portions instead of huge meals. In the Chicago area it began many years ago when Lettuce Entertain You restaurants opened up Cafe BaBaRiba on North Halsted. Then the real Tapas restaurants came in bringing us more authentic “platas” and savory flavors. The beauty of the tapas of course , is that it allows us to try new flavors and learn to accept flavors and spice that are “foreign” to our taste buds.
Last year, a new flavor sensation came upon the scene, el Tapeo opened in LeMeridien Chicago-Oakbrook Center’s location. Located at 2100 Spring Road, just on the Eastern part of Oakbrook Center, up on the 9th floor, one will find a very upscale looking dining area with a wonderful bar and a staff that will exceed your expectations from the second you exit the elevator to the second you re-enter to head on home for to your next destination). I can guarantee your taste buds will have savored many zestful flavors and your hunger pangs will have disappeared.
Our server, Krystal was a very knowledgeable person who understood the complete menu and was able to answer every question for us. Despite having dined in Tapas restaurants before, they were not even close to the experience enjoyed at el Tapeo- let me share this with you.
We began our education and dining experience (one and the same) with two tapas plates, Gambas, shrimp sautéed with garlic, herbs & elephant garlic chips and the other Datiles (we ordered two of these) which are fried medjool dates stuffed with marcona almonds and wrapped in cherry wood bacon- TO DIE FOR!
For our entrée’s we listened to our server and selected two of their specialties, pescado del Dia; two year aged serrano ham wrapped monkfish, sautéed manila clams & frisee citrus salad- zingy and tasty and then the Carne Asada; wagyu skirt steak, arugula, manchego cheese & piquillo pepper. probably the tenderest meat I have ever had. The beauty of these dinner plates was that each had its special flavors and aromas, yet they combined well together making the dining experience a very special one as we shared both of them.
The menu is filled with descriptions that will arouse your curiosity and get your taste buds excited. How could we truly taste the flavors of el Tapeo unless we joined in to the desert menu, led by pastel de Queso Manchego (cheesecake) and fritters. We asked Krystal, who knew our likes and dislikes (although we had none of those) to select two deserts for us to share- she selected Crema Catalan, a creme brulee custard that was perfect and the other the Pastel de Chocolate, warm dark chocolate cake, pistachio ice cream, nutella powder and brulee banana. I was in heaven.
As I said earlier, the ambiance was delightful with a staff that not only knows what they serve, but why they serve this dynamite menu. Perched high above Oakbrook, as the sun began to fade, we could look to the East and see the lights of Chicago, which added to the exotic feeling that this restaurant held for us. Based on what we saw, I would imagine that the hotel Le Meridien in Oakbrook is a great place to visit when in the area and for those who might be coming to pay you a visit. Close to the highways and by-ways, el Tapeo is a place you should put on your worth the trip list. By the way, they make a “mean” martini!
For more info on this sparkling experience, visit www.eltapeorestaurant.com or call 630-828-2044. Again, this dining experience is located at 2100 Spring Road, on the 9th floor of Le Meridien Chicago-Oakbrook Center.