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Seattle Times food writer Nancy Leson serves up the best info and tips on Northwest food, cooking, dining and restaurants.

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December 18, 2008 4:11 PM

The good word's in: Taberna del Alabardero is open for business

Posted by Nancy Leson

I received a nice note last week from Luis F. Esteban -- Honorary Consul of Spain, alerting me to the opening of Taberna del Alabardero. What? You haven't heard about the new Spanish restaurant in Belltown? Well, then: you must have missed this post. And if Taberna's bar looks familiar, imagine yourself sitting there with an Alpine Martini and a trio of mini-burgers and you'll say, "Ah ha! That place!

Senor Esteban explained that the restaurant's parent company, Grupo Lezama, was founded by Catholic priest Luis Lezama 35 years ago to give opportunity to homeless children. Today its 20 restaurants (18 in Spain and one in D.C.) employ over 700 people, and its two cooking schools (one in Seville, the other in Zaragoza) enroll over 500 students. Father Lezama was in town for the restaurant's christening and I'm sorry I missed the opportunity to meet him. But I'm pleased to say that the Honorary Spanish Consul wasn't the only one who's urged me to check out Taberna.

Garland Minor, who said she reads all my blog entries but never comments (so what are you waiting for -- an engraved invitation?) e-mailed to tell me about the terrific meal she had there. It was an especially welcome date-night, she explained, because she and her husband have a baby at home and haven't been getting out as frequently as they'd like. Garland raved about the prawn and octopus brochettes ("three huge sweet shrimp, three small but yummy tentacles, for just $6"), the stuffed and fried mussels and the veal sweetbreads in Sherry sauce -- the first sweetbreads she'd ever eaten.

The "classic and cozy" decor and service was just as impressive, she said. And that was before the owner, Paco Pena, found out her husband works for a local wine distributor that lists the place among its clients. (Full disclosure much appreciated, Garland!) "I know Spanish foods and tapas are the trendy thing right now," she told me, "but the simple yet unique preparations were something special, and I really think you should try it out." What's more, "They've got a great happy hour-deal of half-off tapas and sangria from 3 to 6 Monday through Friday, to which I've alread invited my girlfriends." (And my invitation is. . .?)

Meanwhile, with all that build-up (and seeing as I was in the neighborhood Tuesday afternoon) I stopped in to the week-old restaurant for a look-see (yes, they're open for lunch) and greeting me was the Big Queso himself, Paco Pena:

Doesn't the dining room look pretty, all dressed-up for Christmas? (Don't answer that, Kerry Sear.)

And the decor has certainly changed since I first laid eyes on this reception-area construct, where picture-perfect fruits and vegetables once greeted guests at Cascadia, doubling as natural works of art:

The room looked warm and inviting, if a little shockingly yellow after the chic austerity of its predecesor. But that, my friends, is not a complaint. Anyway, allow me to join Luis F. Esteban and Garland Minor in wishing Taberna del Albardero a warm Seattle welcome -- despite the wintry weather we've provided for its debut. I hope to enjoy a meal and raise a glass there, soon. And if any of you go, don't be shy like Garland: my comments-box awaits your impressions.

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