When I was in Spain, friends and coworkers would get together at cafes and casual restaurants for a drink and snacks in the evening. This is when we would have an aperitif of cocktails, campari or Rose, along with olives, nuts, cured meats, cheese and bread. It was only around nine or ten pm that we would head off to a restaurant for a proper dinner. Typically, we ordered a bottle of wine for the table, with tapas for dinner, thus continuing the Spanish tradition of communal dining.
Flavors of Morocco and Spain now intersect at Atlanta’s hip Buckhead neighborhood. Gypsy Kitchen opened in October 2014 offering sophisticated patrons old world wines, handcrafted cocktails, and sharable tapas, in a sensually artistic ambiance.
A walk around the restaurant is worth the visit for visual senses. A metal bull sculpture stands as centerpiece at the bar. Teal blue walls, oversized French chandeliers, and Moorish doors and glass framed mirrors – together create a delicate and romantic ambient lighting. The assorted lighting fixtures around the room is a good representation of what the food is about – inspirations from around the world.
The menu is organized by cheese plates, tapas, soups/salads and entrees. Lightly dusted with olive oil and grilled toast served with slices of Spanish Manchego cheese and Quince paste, paired with a bold Rioja is a good starting point to this journey. Cured meat lovers would want to order Jamon Iberico to share alongside.
Tapas (or small plates) take center stage at Gypsy Kitchen. A must have at any Spanish restaurant is Croquetas (or croquettes). Served steaming hot, the center is gooey with chicken and cheese, while the outside is perfectly crusted with fried bread crumbs. This was my absolute favorite snack food in Spain, second only to Patatas Bravas, crisp roasted potato wedges dipped in spicy aioli. The Roasted Cauliflower Salad is a great way to indulge guilt free. Smokiness of the paprika and heartiness of chopped boiled eggs add a unique touch to this dish. For a Moroccan inspired appetizer, try the Lamb Kefta Tagine, soft lamb meatballs in a tomato sauce topped with a runny egg.
Combination of dates, blue cheese and ham rolled in to a Spanish Cigar is a fun savory cookie-like appetizer that compliments with the Spice Trader (Bourbon, Honey & Cayenne, Apricot Liqueur, Lime, Ginger Beer).
Garlic Shrimp is a traditional tapa found at many restaurants, but here it is grilled with shells intact with a touch of parsley, olive oil garlic and salt, which helps retain moisture while absorbing flavors.
Large Plates on the menu are not worth the trouble. The Marcona Almond Tikka Masala comes with chunky pieces of chicken breasts that lack the well established Indian spices, and the fish dishes are too bland for the surroundings. My aspirations at dessert are also broken down by a dry devil food cake. I crave for a typical apple tart from Barcelona and hot churros dipped in warm melted chocolate from Madrid, but can’t find them.
Gypsy Kitchen is a good attempt to take the diner on a walk along the spice route. It’s a good gathering spot offering lots of space. With subtle flavors and upscale ambiance, it has a gypsy-like quality that is on the move to “find itself.”