Ocho's Pa amb Tomàquet, garlic-rubbed tomato toast.
The Eats: Ocho, 2325 N.W. Market St., 784-0699. Spanish-inspired tapas.
The Deets: Like so many youngsters who grew up on Mister Rogers and Sesame Street, I can thank public television for teaching me Spanish words like "agua" and "ocho." Ocho, I learned, means eight, and it's an apt name for this shoebox-sized room in Ballard--formerly Matt's Gourmet Hot Dogs--that contains approximately the same number of (tiny) tables.
Ocho, however, has no problem filling them up, and even more impressive on a recent Saturday night was how four adults easily shared multiple courses alongside cocktails without feeling crowded--and the effortless stream of service that made it possible even as guests continued to arrive like clowns piling into a Volkswagen. Elegant lighting, an efficient use of space, and great cocktails somehow all work together to create this restaurant magic, and its truly the little things that make Ocho tick.
The Beets: Small, shareable plates are the thing here and vegetarians have a variety available to them on the passed menu and the daily chalkboard. Green sides like the Brocoli with escarole, garlic, and pine nuts or the Setas de Jerez (olive oil toast with sherried mushrooms and arugula) are simple, savory bets. The toast was perfectly crunchy (as opposed to dreadfully soggy) as were the crispy goat cheese croquettes (Croquetas Borrachas) with romesco--don't miss those.
The lovely Gartinado (a farro-style risotto with beech mushrooms in a rosemary cream) and Patatas Bravas (fried potatoes) with a zippy artichoke aioli rounded out my party's shared meal before I could try the vegetarian chorizo, brussels sprouts, and a handful of other dishes I was eying--you have to stop somewhere, I suppose. At a cool $30 for my portion--including two cocktails--rest assured I'll be back for another round.
The Tweet: Skip the hanger steak and jamon and vegetarians, you're in for a tasty, cheap Spanish treat.