PHUKET: With its lively bright green and orange color scheme, Sangria’s Tapas Bar & Restaurant is definitely not the kind of place to go to drown your sorrows. There’s a certain magnetic draw to the warm glow spilling from the huge windows and a definite festive air about the place.
At the core of Sangria’s is owner and head chef Aimee Grainge. Aimee takes pride in her business and floats around greeting and chatting to customers and just generally making everyone feel warm and welcome.
The menu at Sangria’s isn’t huge like the encyclopedic versions found at some restaurants around the island. The tapas menu has a couple dozen offerings – just enough to satisfy most tastes.
Why not start with the classics? There is a Spanish olive medley with artichoke hearts and mushrooms that will get you in the right mindset and bruschetta with unusually fresh-tasting minced tomatoes drizzled with a sweet balsamic reduction. Other diversions from the classic bruschetta recipe such as black olive bruschetta and a smoked salmon pate bruschetta are available for the more adventurous.
Although not on the set menu yet, one of several specials for the week was a seafood paella. “It took us a month of searching just to find the right rice,” said Aimee. Indeed, it was worth it. There is a certain texture to paella that cannot be substituted, and its mild saffron and curry flavors found their way to appreciative taste buds, selling out on some days.
The chili garlic prawns (shrimp gambas) are served swimming in a delectable ocean of garlicky white wine butter sauce. No doubt, it is a rich dish, but the chunks of deep red, yet mild chilies seem to somehow keep the buttery goodness from overwhelming the palate. For tapas dishes, the gambas and several others, come in quite large portions – probably able to satisfy less ravenous appetites single-handedly.
Another classic is the battered and deep-fried paprika calamari. No mushy batter here – only crispy rings cooked to the ideal texture with a hint of lemon and mild peppery paprika.
“One thing we wanted to do was to keep things simple. We didn’t want complicated dishes that take a long time to make, so customers can be served quickly,” explained Aimee.
For those who fancy some red meat with their meal, the chili tomato meatballs are one such simple dishes that make an excellent choice. The first bite reveals that the lean beef is good quality and then there is the rich and flavorful spicy chili sauce – not for the faint of heart or weak of tastebuds – with a delightful zing and smoky, almost slightly bitter chipotle flavor. This hearty dish ranked as one of the highlights of the evening.
Of course, it must be mentioned that the restaurant’s namesake, sangria, just might be the menu item that keeps patrons in their seats all night. Available by the glass or by the “jug”, the fruit infused concoction is made with a signature twist – a stick of cinnamon – which seems to make all the difference.
Sangria’s has a specials board that rotates weekly which will help guide the direction of the evolving menu as well as a selection of specialty salads, ciabatta sandwiches and jacket potatoes.
Although Sangria’s, which has only been open a short time, has a spectrum of sumptuous choices on the menu, the food is only part of the equation.
“What we are trying to create is more than a restaurant, we are trying to create an experience; a place where memories are made,” said Aimee.
The restaurant, located in the Fishermen’s Way shopping center on Wiset Road in Rawai, with its vibrant colors, upbeat music, outdoor couches and after-dinner shisha, is an unexpected Spanish oasis in the land of smiles.
— Jeremie Schatz
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