Tapas are one of Spain’s great contributions to the world. They’re bar food — full-bodied, flavorful little dishes traditionally served with beer, wine or hard liquor. In Spain, if you start out by ordering tapas, you end by ordering tapas. Whether you consume one or 10, they are your meal.
Though many restaurants in Marin serve small plates, , on C and Fourth streets in San Rafael is the only restaurant to serve authentic Spanish-style tapas. They also happen to be among the best small plates in the county.
The word tapa, translated from the Spanish, means ‘cover.’ Legend has it that the first tapas were pieces of bread draped with cheese or ham, placed over the top of a glass of wine. The idea was to lift the piece of bread and the aroma of wine would flood out from the glass, to tease and entice. The bread and its topping would accompany, and balance, the wine.
At Sabor, tapas range from plates of Spanish-style charcuterie and cheeses, to a honeydew/cucumber gazpacho the color of young leaves, to robust sweet local mussels with chorizo and tomato sauce, to vegetarian fare such as classic Tortilla Espanol, a thick frittata of egg laced with potatoes, onion and red pepper. (Cut into it and it’s like eating a gorgeously earthy mosaic.) The little dishes range in price from $4 to $13, depending on the size and ingredients.
Best of all, Sabor of Spain offers happy hour Tuesdays through Fridays from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., when you can order two tapas for the price of one if you're seated at the restaurant's long granite bar. Sangria (wine and fruit juice with fruit) and selected wine are $4 for a generous 6-ounce pour; beers are $3. Sabor also has a terrific selection of Spanish wines by the glass or bottle. Try a flute of Montferrant Cava, a ruby-red sparkling wine, for a dramatic tipple with your tapas.
Sabor of Spain is at 1301 Fourth St., San Rafael, 457-8466, www.saborofspain.com. It’s open Sunday, Tuesday & Wednesday from 5 to 9:30, Thursday until 10 p.m. Friday & Saturday until 11 p.m. Closed Mondays.
Contact Leslie Harlib at email@example.com.