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Yes, Tapas

By Rebecca ChristophersonJune 10, 2024No Comments

Yes, Tapas

By Tori Couch
Photography by Nancy Farrar

Ildefonso Jimenez brings his restaurant concept Si Tapas to Fort Worth’s Westside

ldefonso Jimenez’s passion for Spanish food shines through every item on the menu at his restaurant, Si Tapas.

Whether it’s a dish Jimenez created that was inspired by a traditional Spanish dessert, like the Fresas con Naranja y Helado de Pimienta en salsa de Gran Manier (strawberries and oranges with black pepper ice cream in Grand Marnier sauce), or something influenced by a well-known tapas bar in Madrid called Casa Lucas, each dish reflects his native culture.

“Spanish food is very straightforward and very simple, but when you put together those ingredients, it’s just amazing how they can create these incredible flavors,” Jimenez, owner of Si Tapas, said.

Those flavors have landed inside Fort Worth’s Artisan Circle, the district previously known as Crockett Row, at 2949 Crockett St. Si Tapas’ second location sits inside a 4,275-square-foot space, the former home of Fireside Pies.

Ildefonso Jimenez opened a second location of Si Tapas in the Artisan Circle, formerly known as Crockett Row, in mid-March. Jimenez is originally from Madrid and shares Spanish culture through the food offered at Si Tapas.

Si Tapas has been in Dallas since 2009. Jimenez opened the Fort Worth location in mid-March to a warm reception. Many customers were already familiar with the Spanish tapas restaurant, having visited the Dallas location, Jimenez said.

Now, more Fort Worthians will become familiar with the food, wines and cocktails Si Tapas offers. The cheeses and cured meats come from Spain while other ingredients are sourced in the United States, Jimenez, who created the menu, said.

Most of the 75-plus menu items are not considered main courses, except for the paella and suckling pig, a dish unique to the Fort Worth location. The tapas, made in both classic and modern styles, can be shared and customers will try several at one time.

“You can make a whole meal with tapas,” Jimenez said. “What I like to do for the people that come for the first time, I like to help them set up a menu where they can have a little bit of everything, where you can try different flavors.”

When Jimenez took over the space in Artisan Circle, he didn’t feel the need to make many changes. The wood burning oven and bar remain from Fireside Pies with the addition of a little more cooking space between the two areas.

Booths were removed from the side of the restaurant facing Crockett Street to open up more seating. Black tables and chairs fill up the dining area, and a picture of a bull greets guests on the back wall as they walk in.

Jimenez credits frequent visits over the past 10 years to see his daughter and grandchildren as to how he got to know Fort Worth and why he decided it would be a good spot for a second restaurant location. The building just added more intrigue.

“We came and fell in love with the place. This reminds me so much of a place in Spain, in Madrid,” Jimenez said, sitting inside the restaurant. “This is a cool building with the bricks and the way it is designed. It’s very European to me. I felt like it was back in Madrid.”

Jimenez grew up in Madrid and came to Dallas in 1973 at 13 years old. His father worked for an American-based company, was transferred to the United States and helped open Dallas’ Fairmont Hotel in 1969.

Dallas soon became Jimenez’s new home. He graduated from Dallas Baptist University with a couple degrees, including an MBA. While in college, he worked in the service industry holding every role imaginable from a busboy to carving ducks in front of customers.

This connection with restaurants seemed natural for someone who grew up around food.

“Being from Spain, everything happens in the kitchen,” Jimenez said. “I didn’t go to culinary school, but I grew up with my parents always cooking. Watching my mother cook, watching my father cook. So that’s where I got the passion for cooking.”

After getting the MBA, Jimenez accepted a job with the Southland Corp. He opened Cafe Madrid around that same time in 1990 and left Southland after about a week.

Since then, Jimenez has owned other restaurants, including ¡Hola! and Ketama.

Si Tapas not only reflects Jimenez’s Spanish roots, but many menu items are based on family recipes. Paella’s commonly served at large family gatherings. Jimenez’s father would make it with rabbit, snail, seafood or other meats.

The strawberry dessert comes from the Catalonia region in Barcelona. The original dish includes strawberries with a little black pepper and orange juice squeezed on top. Jimenez decided to incorporate the black pepper into ice cream. 

“We made the ice cream and the contrast of the sweetness, and the peppery bite, it was incredible,” Jimenez said. “People loved it. It’s one of the most popular desserts we have on the menu.”

He makes a couple trips to Spain each year, which provides new menu ideas. The Casa Lucas dish pairs grilled pork tenderloin with caramelized onions and Spanish blue cheese on toasted bread. 

Because the Fort Worth location has a pizza oven, the menu will have a few items not found in Dallas. One of those items is coca, also known as Spanish pizza, from the island of Mallorca. It’s a flatbread with sauteed vegetables, olive oil and herbs. 

Cochinillo, the suckling pig dish, features a baby pig from Spain weighing 8 to 10 pounds that is cooked in the oven. 

“They had never eaten anything else but milk,” Jimenez said. “So the meat is very tender.”

Jimenez said he is working on importing lamb for a suckling lamb dish, too.

Wine is also an important part of the Si Tapas experience. Jimenez plans to host wine tastings as a way to introduce Fort Worth to Spanish wines. The tastings would feature wines from a specific region, paired with food from that same region, Jimenez said. 

Everything Jimenez does at Si Tapas is centered around educating customers. He enjoys interacting with customers while providing them a taste of Spanish culture, food and history. 

“Everybody that has come in, they really liked it, very impressed,” Jimenez said. “And I’d like to help them learn more about Spain. That’s the whole idea behind it.”

 

Paella Mixta — Mixed paella

The Paella Mixta includes seafood, chicken and pork and is big enough for two people to share. Si Tapas also offers a vegetarian and seafood paella. “Paella’s a dish that you do in Spain every Sunday,” Ildefonso Jimenez said. “So, that was it. When I said my father used to cook for us, all the kids come home, that’s the dish that he did.”

Serves 2

4-6 oz olive oil
2 cups chicken stock
Pinch saffron
4 pieces, chicken wings
6 oz pork, diced
4 large shrimp
½ cup calamari rings and legs
½ cup, bay scallops
1 tbsp garlic
½ onion, diced
1 each, whole red and whole green bell pepper, diced
1 large tomato, diced
½ cup green peas
1 cup rice
4 mussels
4 clams
1 unit lemon, sliced into wedges for garnish
Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation 

Warm the chicken stock and add saffron until saffron releases color and flavor. Set aside.

On high, heat paella pan with olive oil.

Add chicken wings to paella pan. Season with salt and pepper while browning chicken wings on all sides, then remove chicken wings and set aside.

Add diced pork loin and season pork with salt and pepper. Brown on all sides and then remove pork from pan and set aside.

Add shrimp to paella pan and cook shrimp halfway (until red). Remove shrimp from pan and set aside.

Add calamari and scallops to pan, season with salt and pepper, cook and set aside the calamari and scallops.

Lower heat to medium. Add garlic to the pan. Once garlic is golden, add onions, tomatoes, peppers and peas and cook until onions are translucent and peppers are soft.

Add rice to pan and fry until golden.

Add pork, calamari, scallops and chicken broth. Cook for 5 minutes.

Add mussels, clams, shrimp and chicken. Cook until rice is cooked (30-40 minutes). You can also place in a heated oven at 350 degrees until rice is cooked (35-40 minutes).

Garnish with parsley and lemon wedges.

 

Ensalada de Naranja con Zanahoria — Orange, carrot and fresh mint salad

Ensalada de Naranja con Zanahoria (orange salad with carrots and fresh mint) brings together sweet and earthy flavors.

Serves 1

1 medium orange, peeled and sliced
6-7 oz carrots, peeled, then shaved lengthwise
8 leaves fresh mint, julienne sliced
Dressing: 1 tsp red wine vinegar and 2 oz of extra-virgin olive oil mixed and drizzled on oranges and carrots
Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation 

Peel orange and slice it into medallions. 

Peel carrots and shave lengthwise into ribbons.

Julienne the mint leaves.

Plate orange medallions.

Mix carrot ribbons and mint in a bowl with red wine vinaigrette. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Place carrot ribbons on top of orange medallions and drizzle remaining dressing on top of salad.

 

Atún a la Plancha — Fresh seared tuna with ground black pepper

The Atún a la Plancha dish features fresh seared tuna with ground black pepper.

Serves 1

4 oz tuna filet
Cracked pepper to taste/cover tuna
Salt flakes to taste
1 oz extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp chopped parsley for garnish

Preparation 

Pat dry tuna and coat with cracked pepper.

Heat pan with olive oil at high heat until olive oil smokes. 

Place tuna filet into pan and sear. Flip tuna and sear until all edges are golden.

Slice tuna into thin pieces.

Season with salt flakes and olive oil to taste. Garnish with chopped parsley.