Tapas Bar Proves to Be More Than Just Appetizers on a Toothpick

By Celina Kareiva

The Place: Pintxo, 2207 2nd Ave , 441-4042

The Hours: 4p.m. to 6p.m. daily

The Deal: Drink specials range from $2 to $4.50. Tapas are just $6 during happy hour.

The Digs: Pintxo is Spanish for "small snacks," bite-size morsels traditionally eaten in northern regions of the country between meals or late in the afternoon. But tapas, as they are also called, are not to be confused with appetizers. They are accompanied by drinks and thus are not so much a type of food, as a way of eating--with conversation, friends and a night out on the town. This tapas bar definitely embodies that attitude.

Pinxto recently remodeled its interior to mirror the change in seasons. The now sage green walls are accented by blocky paintings featuring abstract skylines and thick earth-colored brushstrokes--the type you would expect to find hanging in an art studio. Handsome wood floors compliment the ostentatious wall d├ęcor. Though a bit cramped (we have to navigate

around three sets of legs just to get to our corner table) the space feels animated and buoyant. Tables are small elevated squares of countertop within whispering distance of one another. So while sampling the various dishes, you can also savor bits and pieces of your neighbor's conversation.

Pintxo doesn't claim to be anything more than a tapas bar. The menu is composed of mostly unfamiliar platters, each item a thoughtful pairing of flavors. There are the spicy lamb meatballs, the potato leek soup as well as more refined tastes, like strips of bacon hugging dates stuffed with goat cheese. The tapas are served on geometrically shaped plates and are pieces of art in their own right. We expect them to be just as delicately flavored as they look, but both the drinks and the tapas have a surprising kick to them.

The Verdict: Tapas have become quite trendy in Seattle, an excuse for restaurant owners to serve diminutive servings on toothpicks for egregious prices. But the sheer attention to detail of Pintxo makes the steep bill worth it. Everything from the wall hangings to the arrangement of the food on the plate has been thoroughly thought through. Space and service is so intimate that guests actually feel like they're at a catered dinner party.

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