Monday, October 16, 2006
Minotaure in Playa Del Rey
I checked out a new tapas restaurant in Playa Del Rey tonight called Mintotaure. It is on Culver Blvd., in the space Chloe used to occupy. It is a cute, comfortable space, with a small red bar, but, like at Chloe, there is an ambiance-crushing bright light blasting from the open kitchen door, into the dining room. The food is mostly tapas ($6-$18), separated into cold and hot, with a couple choices of entree-sized paella. The short and sweet wine list consisted of mostly Spanish, Argentine and Chilean wines, ranging from $8-15 a glass. And, of course, they were playing The Gypsy Kings.
When we sat down they started us of with a trifecta of large marinated green olives, roasted almonds, and soft butter with cilantro and garlic, and a basket of sliced baguette. One $8 glass of Rei Brigo 2005 Albarino from Spain, and I was ready to order. My friend and I shared the shrimp and swordfish ceviche ($13). It had all the requirements of good ceviche: sharp, tangy, bright and crisply cold. But one hitch: the seafood was minced. I prefer chunks, so I can see what I am eating. The minced style made it look more like catfood. ( I apologize for the lack of photos, the first couple did not turn out well - I prefer not to use the flash, but it was just too dark to take a photo without one. They were not very busy, so I used the flash on the last three dishes)
For the next course, Cat had the fried calamari served with a spicy alioli and an even spicier pepper sauce ($9). I had the chicken empanada, served with the same spicy pepper sauce, which was a special that day. The calamari was fried very nicely - no grease puddles, just a nice crisply, crunchy batter on the delicate calimari. I could not find any tentacles, though (my favorite). My empanadas were very good. Fried nice and dark (they way I like my fried foods as some of you may know), not at all greasy, with tender chicken inside. I could have ordered another round, but I managed to control myself.
We finished the meal with a disappointing cheese plate. Look at all that stuff on it! The cheese was still chilly from the refrigerator, and covered in micro greens, raspberries and peanuts. Peanuts?! No, no, no. Just give me the cheese with a slice of membrillo (this is a Spanish restaurant, after all).
Service was friendly, but not terribly efficient. Our server would bring out the next course before clearing the last plate (the tables were small and crowded with a large candle, large wine and water glasses, and a plant). After our ceviche, we should have received new plates, since the ceviche left a runny mess, but that was overlooked as well.
The menu was filled with all kinds of seafood and meat dishes, and (like the unhappy vegetarian at the table next to us pointed out before promptly leaving the restaurant to dine elsewhere), not many vegetarian options. For the fried calamari dish, served with sauce on the side, the menu stated: "FRITOS CALAMARES - roasted garlic calamari in piquant lemon chili sauce" If one did not know that fritos means fried, this dish sounds like it should be roasted calamari with sauce poured over it, right? And the Jamon Serrano tapa is listed as, "JAMON SERRANO - antipasto ham, prociutto, cantaloupe and green olives." Prociutto?! In a Spanish joint?
We thoroughly enjoyed the wine, and most of the food was good, but Minotaure is probably not worth a drive across town, like Cobras and Matadors is. It is a cute place for drinks and a snack for the locals of Playa del Rey. It is the Truxton's of Playa del Rey.
333 Culver Blvd.
Playa Del Rey, CA 90293