Cafe Apamate...the tree which is the restaurant's namesake is native to Venezuela, which I read is where the chef hails from. The cafe is located on the Rittenhouse side of South St., near a few other upstart eateries making waves like Pumpkin and Pub & Kitchen.
Elizabeth & I walked in around 8PM on a Saturday night; the BYOB was nearly full, but we were greeted & seated immediately.
Staff was friendly and informative, letting us know that although they served more traditional courses & entrees, the majority of the menu was pintxos...a Northern Spanish variation on tapas. About 4 pintxos per person was the recommended portion for diners.
There were over a dozen tempting pintxos, with a smattering of vegetable, seafood & meat offerings. Elizabeth was beside herself with excitement when she noticed that goat cheese could be found on nearly every third pintxo offering!
Marinated Anchovies & Red Peppers - vinegary and fishy, the anchovies were plump & meaty. I'm not a huge fan of marinated fish, but this went well with the Spanish red wine we'd brought along.
Squid Stuffed with Goat Pepper & Red Pepper blend - drizzled with a salty sepia sauce, the squid was decently cooked ( not rubbery ) and bursting with a pepper-reddened goat cheese stuffing that was light and creamy...I was hoping for a bit more sear on the squid though.
Seared Scallops w/ Apple & Lemon Sauce - liked the playful sea-foam & shell presentation...I sampled it on a dare...it tasted like blecchhh...a salt crust meragne I guess totally for looks. The sauce was more of a light splash, which left the natural scallop flavor free to shine.
Bechamel & Ham Croquettes - these fired little balls of ham and thickened sauce were just too gluey for me, but I'm sure if I liked Bechamel sauce more, I'd be pleased...the croquettes themselves were plenty crispy. I think I've had my annual allotment of Bechamel.
Rib-Eye, Potatoes & Cabrales Blue Cheese sauce - this is the miniaturized version of an entree and the meat was perfectly cooked, char on outside with pinky rare center. Cabrales is a dangerous cheese to use, but the sauce was perfect...punchy, but not overpowering.
Candied Sausage - not quite what I was thinking, these were little wonton-wrappers stuffed with a crumbled sausage made to look like little Christmas crackers or saltwater taffy...I was wishing there were more than two candies
Oxtail, Cheese & Pepper served on a Plantain Chip - This was absolutely delicious....slow-braised ox-tail served simply on a plantain chip. I asked the chef afterwards about the recipe and he explained it braised all day long. This was so tender and rich that two portions was more than enough.
The fact that there isn't even a picture of this tells you how good it was...we forgot to snap a pic as we furisouly dove into the special.
The special that night was simply 2oz of Iberico ham thinly shaved & sweetened figs. The ham was so thinly sliced you could see though it and as you held it, the heat from your hand was enough to render out the nutty scent of the fat. This was some seriously good ham and it was decently priced.
We were completely stuffed, but had to try the famous churros I've read so much about. Served with warm chocolate sauce, the crispy outside, tender inside churros were the perfect dessert.