T and I love this tiny tapas place just off of Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica. And when I say "tiny" I truly mean tiny: Bar Pintxo only fits about 30 people and is just a stone's throw away from the super touristy 3rd Street Promenade, so needless to say the place fills up fast. Which is why we tend to stop by before the dinner crowds descend, usually on a week night or around mid-afternoon on the weekends.
Our go-to order every time we come is the crimini mushroom with jamon and diced vegetables for him and I die for the tuna stuffed tomato with garlic and parsley (both of which are ironically not pictured here. Sorry!). Today we tried the mouthwatering "gambas al ajillo" (white shrimp, garlic, parsley and lemon) and "espinacas a la catalana" (wilted spinich with pinenuts, garlic, apple and raisins), and paella with squid ink whose name I don't remember since T ordered it on the sly.
And when I saw "patatas bravas" on the menu, I knew I had to order it, if only to satiate my curiosity about the dish that emanates all the way back from my high school Spanish class days. They also have an extensive list of Spanish wines which, if you don't know wine, and even if you DO, can nevertheless be a debilitating experience. Which is why I tend to tell the waitress whatever I'm in the mood for that day (which can be anything from full-bodied and hearty to something a bit fruitier with a hint of blackcurrant and plum--the latter is what I requested this afternoon, almost verbatim!) and she'll bring me back something so flavorful and perfect that I've come to just trust the system and no longer bother with the menu anymore. And yes, everything is as delicious as it sounds.
One of the reasons I adore this place, apart from the scrumptious food, is the old world ambiance. Each time I step over the threshold I feel as if I just entered a cool, off-the-beaten-path bar in the middle of Barcelona or Madrid. The dusty wine bottles lining shelves on the wall, the elegant chandelier dangling overhead, the chalkboards featuring the day's specials in Spanish, all of this lends a very down-to-earth, yet elegant European vibe to the place. It's only when your American waitress cheerfully asks what you'd like to drink and you can see the glistening Pacific Ocean from your perch at the bar that you realize where you really are. I find the transporting quality to Bar Pintxo only adds to its considerable charms.