Nestled on busy main street is a charming and unassuming Spanish tapas bar called Manchego. Its small size and simple facade could easily be passed when driving by. The quaint interior is welcoming, and rustic textures gives the space a warmth that encourages you to stay for awhile.
The restaurant is named after an exquisite sheep’s milk cheese, which gives me an inkling of the level of cookery that awaits. I begin my night with a glass of Sangria, the perfect starting off point to a great meal.
Crispy Jamon Tostado
burrata, fig jam, jamon
The gentle sweetness of the fig jam worked harmoniously with the salty pork. The crispy Iberia ham, rich butteriness of the fresh cheese, and the slight crisp edges of the bread gave the tapas dish nice texture.
bacon, mushroom, vinagre de jerez
Acid. salt. sweet. crispy. This little vegetable was transformed into something amazing. The contours of each brussel leaf crisped up, the core was tender, absorbing the the sweet yet slight acidic caramelization of the vinegar. Bits of bacon enriched the dish and the mushrooms added a dose of umami and soft texture.
Membrillo Glazed Pork Belly w. Marcona Almonds
Rich, unctuous, and just fantastic. With each bite, I experienced the layers of flavor and textural variety: the sweet cracklin’ skin from the membrillo glaze, glossy pork fat, and richness of the meat.
lemon, blistered tomatoes, anchoa olives, garlic
This dish was packed with acidity and freshness. I applaud the chef for cooking the octopus to perfection. The exterior had a desirable char, and the center was tender and supple. Lemon, capers, and tomatoes gave it vibrancy and a healthy amount of acid.
*not pictured but also a must-try are the grilled lamb chops with tzatziki and crispy capers (the best dish of the night, but devoured before a picture could be taken).
The food I experienced at Manchego was splendid. It’s a great place to unwind with a few good friends over great food.
Manchego /2518 Main St. Santa Monica, CA 90405 /visit manchego