We’ve had our two tapas stalwarts, Picaro and Esperpento, in the Mission forever, and they are much loved, but I was thrilled to see a newcomer arrive. Destapas opened in December, 2020, by Raul Aguilera and Luis Raga, from Madrid, Spain, and this is their first restaurant, though they’ve been in the business for many years.
We actually ate at Destapas (still a rarity these days) rather than doing take-out, because they have a lovely, twinkly lit outdoor patio in the back with extra-toasty heat lamps. It felt like a little Spanish oasis back there, even on a chilly night.
On my first visit with my sister, we started out splitting the salpicon de mariscos, a mixture of seafood (white fish, octopus, squid, prawns mussels, and clams) in a lime-y sherry vinaigrette:
A great fresh start, with tart bites of apple. The dish needed salt, but that was soon remedied.
Next, pan con tomate, one of my favorite tapas of all time, and they did a great job of it here (unfortunately, it too needed salt).
Big, juicy dollops of tomato flesh, slightly garlicky, with a good olive oil drizzle on crusty bread. I can (and did) eat my fill of these.
The albondigas: fat, good texture, in a very deeply flavored tomato/saffron sauce that tasted like something we couldn’t quite get a handle on. I sensed a slight funkiness, in a very good way. Maybe the manchego? With roasted potatoes in the mix, this was a hearty, warming bowl.
Piquillos stuffed with crab were up next:
Fresh Dungeness crab and prawns with bechamel, in a tomato-pepper brandy sauce. I would have preferred a lot less bechamel in these, because I found it hard to discern the seafood, but my sister really liked them.
Patatas bravas, another favorite:
Pimenton-heavy, as they should be, to take you to the darkest, deepest regions of your Spanish soul. Potatoes that maintained their crispy integrity under the blanket of sauce, with fluffy, steaming insides, and thankfully not sweet, as too many I’ve had in Spain itself. The only thing missing was the optional aioli that is offered on the menu, which they forgot. That did not slow me down one bit.
Finally, gambas al ajillo: Four plump shrimp in an assertively garlicky, buttery, paprika-laden sauce, with a bracing splash of sherry vinegar.
Addictively perfect, except maybe a tad — just a tad — overcooked. But I’d get them again. And again.
On the second visit, I had the BF in tow and we had an even better experience, despite a couple of service glitches (they were super busy and apologetic on a Friday night, so we forgave). We started out with the croquetas.
These come with Serrano ham or mushroom, and I’m actually not sure which we got because we weren’t offered the choice, but they were crispy and tender little pillows of fried bechamel, rich and steamy, and just the right thing at the right time.
Salmorejo, as you may know, is gazpacho’s way sexier cousin, and this version was like so many wonderful ones we’ve had in Spain, notably in Cordoba; fabulously fruity, lushly creamy, tart and dreamy. I would have ordered another if I didn’t know we had more food coming.
Topped with the usual bits of jamon Serrano and hard-boiled egg, salmorejo is a rich dish, served with the standard picos, tiny little Spanish breadsticks.
In a surprise move, the usually seafood-hating BF acquiesced to ordering the paella mixto, made with chicken thighs, chorizo, clams, mussels, artichokes, green beans, asparagus, sofrito, saffron and bomba rice. There are two sizes, small and large, and while the small is touted as being a single portion, with everything else we’d ordered (we’d also had an order of patatas bravas), we found it more than enough to share.
The other surprise was that Destapas serves this on a plate, as opposed to in the paellera it cooked in, but perhaps that was because we were sharing. The only downside: no socarrat, the heavenly crunchy, caramelized rice that develops at the bottom of the pan, but damn, this was tasty. The rice was moist yet with a good toothiness, and the chicken, in particular, was appealingly tender. The veggies were each distinct from each other and flavorful, and the seafood gave it all the expected briny bite. I’d go back for this dish alone.
We’d also ordered the special of the evening, champiñones al ajillo, basically the same prep as the gambas but with mushrooms. However, our server misunderstood and we didn’t get these until well after the paella was served, but hostia! They were so worth the wait. Crispy outside, deeply earthy with sweetly caramelized garlic slices and chili peppers. I only wish they’d come earlier in the evening with a big basket of bread to sop up the paprika-tinged juices.
There’s more to explore on this menu, including plates of Spanish cheese and jamon Serrano, escalivada, tortilla de patata, and quite a few other very typical tapas. There are three other versions of the paella, one vegetarian. And soon they’ll be offering partially cooked tapas you can pick up and finish in your own oven, to have for your next tapas party. They’ve also got a good little selection of vermuts, a cocktail or two, wine, and desserts.
Destapas brings a celebratory, festive flair to the 24th Street corridor, something we’ve all been craving for far too long. A disfrutar!
2708 24th St.