Monday, May 20, 2024 May 20, 2024
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Restaurant Reviews

Sketches of Spain Opens Today in Oak Cliff

The team behind the Wild Detectives bookstore debuts their Spanish pinchos restaurant on North Zang Boulevard, becoming the city's first.
Courtesy Javier Garcia del Moral

A pincho, or, as they say, pintxo when in Basque Country, is like the perfect bite. Often skewered on a toothpick, it is already the sum of its flavorful parts—accessible, devourable, usually utensil-free. “It’s like an individual tapa, so to speak,” says Javier Garcia del Moral, “something that you point to and the server just hands it to you.” And Garcia should know. The La Rioja, Spain native is opening the pincho-laden Sketches of Spain with Paco Vique (his remote business partner in the Wild Detectives bookstore) and Iñaki Betrán; the trio are longtime friends.

Sketches of Spain opens today at 321 North Zang Boulevard, just down the block from the Wild Detectives on Eighth Street.

Betrán, the chef and culinary brains behind the operation, hails from San Sebastian where he started cooking at the Michelin-starred Arzak, a pioneering restaurant of new Basque cuisine. He’s since helmed kitchens in Australia, Cuba, and now here in Dallas. His menu breaks down into four parts. You might see some things along the lines of garlicky seared prawns flambeed in brandy, or a steak tartare. About a dozen or so of those pinchos ($3.50)—available both in the dining area and at the bar, of course, per tradition—could come in the form of lightly breaded and fried Iberico ham croquettes, tangy piquillo pepper–stuffed salt cod, octopus with potatoes, tart white anchovies, and more.

Beltrán also has a lineup of paellas. Get it “a banda” (cooked with seafood);“Valenciano” (rabbit, chicken, green beans); farm-style, which incorporates fresh vegetables; or “black,” which involves the paella being simmered in squid ink. Larger entrees may be slow-cooked lamb shank, whatever whole fish is fresh that day, or braised boneless oxtail—“which I love from Spain,” professes Garcia.

While he left Spain for the U.S. some 16 years ago to be a civil engineer, Garcia says, “I’ve always been attached to the country because my family lives there—my dad, my brother, my niece.” Sketches of Spain is one way he wants to bring a piece of home to Dallas. “We want it to be more than just a Spanish restaurant, we want it to be a restaurant you can find in Spain.” Which is to say: This is a come-as-you-are place, where you’re intended to stay a while, hours even, savoring food and drink and company as one would in Spain. “We’re not trying to display this exotic difference,” says Garcia. “We’re trying to be a place anyone could enjoy anywhere—Madrid, Barcelona, your neighborhood.”

To aid in such a mission: the bar. This is the ultimate come-as-you-are zone in a restaurant. An acclaimed sommelier friend in Spain helped developed the beverage program. But it’s bar manager Victor Rimach who’s executing the solid rundown of gin and tonics—the quintessential drink in Spain. Here, find them in herbal or citric tones, made with cucumber or Indian spices. There is also a handful of classic cocktails (old fashioned, boulevardier, moscow mule, and the like), a few beers, and Spanish wines from a lush tempranillo to an effervescent rosé.

Sketches of Spain—it’s both a deliberate nod to the Miles Davis album of the same name as well as reference to its pinchos, a vignette of Spanish food, if you will—debuts at 5 p.m. in what formerly housed specialty horror toy shop the Collector’s Crypt, which shuttered around 2016. The gory figurines have given way to sea-blue walls and marbled dinner tables.

Hours, to start, are Tuesday through Friday, 5 p.m. until late (maybe midnight or 2 a.m., but the kitchen will likely close around 10 p.m.). Brunch begins either next weekend or the following weekend, and will be served both Saturdays and Sundays.

For all you brave souls who dare dine during the restaurant’s opening weekend, be patient and dine like one might in Spain: without watching the time.