Another random pick from Erilyn’s Yelp app on her iphone led us to a dimly lit and cozy 20-people-max restaurant in Santa Monica.
Aged oak tables are placed very close together, and the dining space was about the size of a bachelor sized apartment. One waiter asks us if we want him to cork anything. Man if only I was 21 -_- It was probably the first BYOW restaurant I had been to/seen in Southern California and we eyed a group of middle aged women, each with a bottle of wine in tow, preparing to throw a going away party for a friend of theirs.
Manchego is a Spanish tapas bar, and half of the two page menu consists entirely of the various tapas they serve. Prices range from $3 to around $15 per tapas. They also had a combo where you could pick a couple different tapas for a bit less. We decided to play it by ear and ordered the cheese plate, with the Mahon and the Idiazabal. It came with slices of baguette a couple of cherry tomatoes and two types of toppings, Membrillo, a sweet marmalade type paste, and I think it was tomato gazpacho? (some type of tomato sauce). I tried to pick the two most distinctive cheese on the menu, and the differences were definitely noticeable. We found that the Idiazabal went well with the marmalade while the Mahon went well with the tomato dip, each very good contrasts to the sweet and sourness of the respective toppings.
Next came the Goat cheese, Honey and Dried Figs on bread after a very enthusiastic suggestion from our server.
Now, this thing was nothing short of mouth-shocking amazement. I had never had anything like that in my ENTIRE life. The goat cheese was rich and the drizzled honey brought together all of the fruit toppings and the goat cheese flavor so well, its something that just had my jaw dropping in between chews. There were three of these delectable pieces of edible gold and it came to $5.50 for this dish. I can’t describe it because it is indescribable. You just have to go there and try it yourself.
We were still a bit hungry so we topped off the evening with a meat dish. I remember when I had visited spain, the best things there was the ham. I have fond memories of my parents buying slices of ham from the local butcher and a jar of pickles. We would roll the ham around the pickles and dig in. Meat in Spain had this smooth and very sweet-like quality, as if the livestock were fed with magic cake or something. So I had high hopes for the Jamon Serrano that we ordered.
Thin olive oil drenched slices of aged ham were accompanied by some more slices of toasted baguette. The ham was good, a bit too much olive oil on it though for my taste, but it was unlucky enough to follow the Goat Cheese tapa we had ordered so the ham was a bit underwhelming.
All in all, fantastic meal in such an informal yet refined setting, and at a good price too. Definitely one of the highlights of my summer.
2510 Main Street
Santa Monica, CA 90405-3535