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From Spain (and elsewhere) tapas choices in the Bay Area.

From Spain (and elsewhere), tapas choices in the Bay Area Spain's answer to sushi and dim sum, tapas are miniature delicacies meant to be consumed in a leisurely way, according to appetite and whim. On page 94, we tell you how to make some yourself. But if you're in the San Francisco Bay Area and you'd like to sample tapas, you can choose from a growing number of restaurants, Spanish and otherwise, that feature them on their menus. Try one or two as appetizers, or order several and make a meal that's an enticing potpourri of colors, tastes, and aromas. Some traditional Spanish concoctions you're likely to encounter are tortilla espanola (potato-onion omelet), gambas al ajillo (prawns sauteed in garlic), and empanadas (cheese- or meat-filled pastries). But don't be surprised if you come across something that bears little resemblance to Spanish cuisine: tapas are a way of eating that thrives on free-wheeling invention as well as time-tested tradition. Tapas lend themselves to family-style dining, with everyone trying a nibble from each serving plate. Portion sizes vary from place to place, but two selections per person should be a good start; if a particular dish strikes your fancy, you can always order more. Prices range from about $1.50 to $6 a plate. In Spain, tapas are served primarily in bars. Similarly, some of the restaurants in our list serve tapas only in separate bar areas. At other places, though, tapas selections are the heart of the menu. All telephone numbers are area code 415.

San Francisco: six choices Academy Grill, 625 Polk Street, 771-1655. The California Culinary Academy is home to three public restaurants run by the academy's students. Newest of the three, the Academy Grill serves student-prepared tapas from 3 to 11 weekdays. Alejandro's, 1840 Clement Street; 668-1184. You'll find several Peruvian recipes among the 25 to 30 hot and cold tapas served in this popular Richmond-district restaurant. Cheese- and pepper-filled pastries called Alejandrinos are a house specialty. Tapas are served 5 to 11 daily. Cha Cha Cha, 1805 Haight Street; 386-5758. Carmen Miranda would feel right at home in this small but lively cafe, where imaginative tapas and decor borrow liberally from both Latin America and the Caribbean. Several specials are offered daily; shrimp bathed in a Cajun cream sauce is a highlight of the regular menu. Lunch hours are 11:30 to 3; for dinner, 5 or 5:30 to 10 or 11:30. El Meson, 1333 Columbus Avenue; 928-2279. An authentic Spanish flavor prevails here, despite close proximity to Fisherman's Wharf. Hearty traditional tapas are served in the cozy, low-ceilinged bar from 11 to 11 daily. Kuleto's, 221 Powell Street; 397-7720. Small but tasty portions of Italian and Spanish dishes can be ordered in the elegant bar of this new establishment, which is just around the corner from Union Square. Try torta rustica, a layered spinach and dried mushroom pie. Tapas served from 11:30 A.M. to midnight daily. South Park Cafe, 108 South Park Avenue; 495-7275. Located in a secluded South of Market neighborhood, across the street from one of San Francisco's first parks, this French cafe serves convincing Spanish-style tapas at front tables and at the bar from 5 to 7 daily.

San Rafael: just tapas Cafe Tango, 1230 Fourth Street; 459-2721. The menu here is devoted almost exclusively to well-prepared tapas, complemented by an extensive wine list. Allioli, a Catalonian garlic mayonnaise, enhances dishes of grilled sausage with white beans and deep-fried new potatoes, and is also available as a side order. Recent expansion has added a 20-foot tapas bar where patrons can eat and mingle. Hours are 11 to 11 daily.

Oakland: Mediterranean accents Oliveto, 5655 College Avenue; 547-5356. Oxtails in beer sauce? Boar ribs? Unusual tapas such as these are displayed on the downstairs counter of this Mediterranean restaurant near the Rockridge BART station. Tapas are served from 7 or 8 to 10 or midnight daily.

Menlo Park: traditional choices Iberia, 190 Ladera Country Shopper (in mall on Alpine Road west of I-280); 854-1746. Hot tapas, such as pinchitos morunos (marinated lamb or pork kebabs) and grilled scallops are cooked on a grill behind the bar (servings are small). Tapas are served in the bar or outdoors daily from 5 to 10.

PHOTO : Appreciative patrons at Oliveto in Oakland eye next tapas platter: she's serving a wedge

PHOTO : of omelet-like tortilla espanola

PHOTO : Painted palms at Cha Cha Cha provide the atmosphere; tapas selections are served in

PHOTO : cast-iron skillets
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Title Annotation:San Francisco Bay Area's Spanish restaurants
Article Type:Directory
Date:Jun 1, 1988
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