In the new millennium, the “small plates” dining concept has come into vogue among American restaurants. Enchanted by the notion of sharing a few petite dishes rather than committing to one sole entrée, diners have embraced the spirit of small bites often termed “tapas”.
Though “tapas” in the pure sense of the word are of Spanish origin, many cultures have a tradition of small bites, typically paired with an alcoholic beverage of some sort. Cicchetti of Italy, mezze of Greece, and the plates of Japan’s izakaya are all of the tapas genre. Curious about a local restaurant’s take on tapas, earlier this week I headed to Demetris Woodstone Taverna, located on Main Street just shy of the Edmonds ferry terminal.
Demetris describes much of its menu as “tapas” though the restaurant’s Mediterranean flavors expand beyond the edges of the Spanish table. Nodding to tradition, my dining companion and I started our evening with an Iberian classic from the happy hour menu, Spicy Patatas Bravas ($3.00). While the potatoes didn’t have the crisp exterior typical of the dish, I appreciated the tenderness of the cubes. The spuds were lightly coated in a lovely tomato-based sauce, slightly tangy with a mellow smolder of paprika. Our Spanish Chardonnay, one of the evening’s wine specials at $4 per glass, was a fair pairing.
The patatas were drizzled with crema, but I supplemented them with daubs of dip from the plate of Artichoke Fritters ($5.00) we also selected from the happy hour line-up. While “fritter” may conjure thoughts of doughy blobs with hard-fried exteriors, Demetris’s artichoke hearts are delicate and delightful. Encased in an airy tempura shell, the artichokes’ flavor was enhanced and not overpowered by the coating. I initially mistook the accompanying dip to be sour cream-based, but a consult of the menu advised that the sauce was made of mascarpone cheese and lemon, the citrus adding a hint of piquancy.
While clearing our first plates, we were tantalized by the parade of dishes being shuttled to the taverna’s many other occupied tables. Some of our service waits were a bit prolonged, and in the interim the passing temptations were many: “Flatbreads” the size of medium pizzas, fresh from the mouth of the fiery wood-burning oven…a sky-high burger palling around with an equally impressive pile of onion rings…bowls of pasta snowy with grated cheese.
We stayed true to the tapas, though, and selected Sauteed Garlic Mushrooms ($8.00), Grilled Octopus With Golden Yukon Potato Timbale ($8.00), and crostini topped with a spread of apricots and Castelvetrano olives ($9.00). The slices of mushrooms, soaking in a bath flavored with sherry, pepper flakes and plenty of garlic, were presented in a peewee cast-iron skillet. I’ve swooned over variations of this dish at other restaurants, and admittedly I’m accustomed to a “drier” presentation. Demetris’s brothy take on ‘shrooms is recommended for the garlic lover, though I found myself wanting the dish to have a stronger note of sherry and more richness from butter or olive oil.
Our grilled octopus came to us as a neatly-formed round plateau of chopped meat, the bits tender and smoky. While Yukon Gold potatoes were a prescribed ingredient of the blend, the octopus was far and away the majority component. We scooped tiny forkfuls of the timbale onto herbed crackers that were divine even when eaten plain, and perfect for conveying mounds of mollusk. Though visually charming, the plate’s colorful web of finishing sauces—one of them akin to Thousand Island dressing—overtook the timbale’s subtle flavors and rendered the plate’s lemon wedge too slippery to squeeze.
When compared to plates I’ve had at other tapas joints in the area (Seattle’s Pintxo and Ocho come to mind) Demetris’s portions were shockingly large. Accordingly, the prices were a bit higher, but perfectly reasonable for what really were appetizer-size helpings opposed to just “bites”. Exemplifying this were our crostini, relatively thick-cut pieces of rustic bread topped with a heavy layer of goat cheese and finished with an equally generous blanket of apricot-olive tapenade. The sweetness of the fruit and saltiness of the olives played nicely with the cheese’s tang, but after a few bites the tapa started to feel like a meal in and of itself.
Demetris does well with dining room décor, boasting unique details like bright copper wire complementing heavy wrought-iron and even managing to make bare incandescent bulbs look modern and sexy. Similar to the ill-fated , Demetris utilizes chain-motif curtains to create separation in what is an ample space. Pretention is entirely absent, with personable servers attending to “girls’ night out” gatherings while fellows hang out at the bar to watch football on the big screen TV overhead.
Though it specializes in small plates, Demetris isn’t about daintiness; the taverna’s spectrum of Mediterranean noshes offers hearty sustenance and bold flavors. The tapas trend is executed nicely at this classy yet casual neighborhood watering hole and its lengthy list of offerings invites diners back to taste their way through new territory.