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(2/21/2005) Our cursory research into the subject indicates that the word "Tapas" derives from the Spanish term tapar - literally to cover. Fine. But, what do the delicious little dishes of food served in Spanish bars and taverns have to do with "covers" of any sort?
One friend insisted that the tidbits of savory food provide "cover" while enjoying wine, sustaining you until the next meal.
Always the pragmatist, however, I much prefer the explanation that tapa derives from the slice of ham or cheese placed by the bartender over your sherry glass used to keep away flies. This explanation contends that, with time, the pub keepers discovered that the salty ham "covers" stimulated beverage sales giving rise to the almost limitless range and style of tapas enjoyed today.
Bali's Newest Food Mecca
Bali's newest "foodies" destination and a must on any visit to the island has to be the Istana Galeria Shopping Mall. Located on the back side of Kuta, adjacent to the do-it-your-selfer's sacred temple of Ace Hardware, the maze of small lanes and alleys at the Mall are home to an interesting range of international eateries – each competing in price and squeaky-cleanliness for customers. Everything from up-market wine bars to bakeries to sushi joints intermixed with a nice peppering of Indonesian eateries are all tucked away at the Istana Galeria Mall.
Pica Tapas Bar & Churrasqueria Restaurant
Our most recent discovery at the Mall - Pica Tapas Bar & Churrasqueria Restaurant is a veritable feast for both the eyes and the discerning palate. Accessed via a welcoming and well-lit bar area, the restaurant immediately opens up, providing an expansive venue capable of accommodating up to 160 diners in a choice of air conditioned comfort or an al fresco setting on the back patio to keep watch over the large Churasqueria or charcoal grills packed with slow-roasting meats.
Enter the Maestro
The host at Pica Tapas Bar & Churrasqueria Restaurant, Carlos Vinas, has some very strongly held opinions about the whole business of eating in restaurants. For example, he doesn't think that fussy presentation is a good thing because it involves the food being handled too much. He also thinks most people don't want to have to make complicated choices from a menu. Thus, when he arrived at our table and said "you really don't need a menu" we agreed and spent the rest of the evening at the tender mercies of Carlos' very robust selection of food.
Right after our first bottle of wine was open and poured, bowls containing a selection of olives – carefully marinated in the Restaurants' own kitchen appeared. These were soon joined by more small bowls brimming with wonderful tidbits of food - Tapas: there were small brochettes of seafood and BBQ meats, meatballs, savories stews with mini ribs, spiced croquettes, stuffed cuttlefish and lightly grilled red peppers - just to name a few. We had the definite sense that the variety of Tapas on offer was almost endless and changed each day, but were afraid to ask for confirmation of that fact out of fear that more dishes might suddenly appear on our crowded table-top.
Already well on our way to satiation, a troupe of young men suddenly entered the room carrying long stainless steel skewers of succulent roast beef, pork, chicken and sausages where they sliced generous servings onto each diner's plates. Each waiter, armed with a long and very sharp butcher's knife, convinced us it was best to amiably agree to each proffered serving of protein rather than run the risk of offending men who make their living wrestling with fire and sharpened steel.
Already near bursting at the seams, round after round of BBQ meats gave way to the grand entrance of a traditional "paella" – an enormous skillet of rice seasoned with saffron, cooked in broth to al dente perfection, and surrounded by spiced prawns and mussels.
We slowly began to suspect that, based on the copious volumes of food being placed before us, if this restaurant does, in fact, have a menu - it might just run to several volumes.
Finishing our paela and raising our hands in culinary mock surrender, we must have looked like amateur kecak dancers to the waiters who arrived and placed a rich Spanish creme dessert before each diner. Ms. Prudence long gone and buried, we followed this with the mandatory round of strong coffees and Spanish brandies.
Pica Tapas Bar offers a dining experience that is unique in Bali; bringing the authentic traditions and culture of Spain together with excellent food and service – all presented with flair and a great sense of fun.
As we slowly waddled out of the restaurant, we realized that we still hadn't seen a menu.
We'll save that experience for the next visit.