Pamplona serves up tapas the traditional way—with a few twists

Pamplona’s pulpo asado
Photo: Yasmina Chavez

Wasn’t the tapas fad played out a few years ago? Maybe, but there’s a new wave of suburban tapas spots reinvigorating the shared plates market. Rather than “global” or “fusion” small dishes, these eateries are going back to the roots of the cuisine and creating accurate interpretations of Spanish favorites.

Pamplona Cocktails & Tapas is not easy to find, but it’s worth weaving your way through the strip malls near the intersection of Sahara and Jones to sample from chef Errol Desmond Omar LeBlanc’s menu, featuring traditional and modern Spanish plates. When you reach the frituras section, you might as well order the whole damn thing. Croquetas de pollo are classic chicken croquettes served with a roasted pepper béchamel dip. Empanadas are doughy pockets of goodness filled with either beef or chorizo and cheese. Berenjenas is one of the most distinct dishes at the restaurant—breaded golden baby eggplant served with chili-infused honey. Dishes like that could come out oily and flavorless, but here the fry job is done expertly, enhancing each item.

Those who have never tried rabbit would be wise to check out Pamplona’s conejo estofado. The careful braised process wipes away the gaminess that often ruins this meat, while a homestyle rioja (red wine) sauce gives it a flavorful bath.

While I have yet to attend the lively bachata brunch on Sundays, I have tried multiple cuts of the work-in-progress Iberico ham menu the chef is concocting. It’s an exciting way to taste what’s often considered the best pork in the world. Think of it as a wagyu tasting menu, but for pig.

Pamplona Cocktails & Tapas 5781 W. Sahara Ave. #100, 702-659-5781. Tuesday-Thursday, 3-10 p.m.; Friday, 3-11 p.m.; Saturday, 5 p.m.-midnight; Sunday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

Tags: Dining, Food
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