In my opinion, there is nothing more natural for a wine region than tapas. Mendoza is one of the great wine capitals of the world and with a wide variety of wines (and a huge variety of Malbec too) picking just one bottle is pretty tricky for a meal. There are too many options, and undoubtedly what goes with your food choice is not going to the same wine that would go best with your companion’s.
This is where tapas comes in. You can have as much as you want and move through the entire variety of flavours and profiles, matching with different glasses – or bottles – of wine. It is my ultimate death row meal. Precisely because it never really ends.
What has been a mystery for me since arriving in Mendoza in 2009 is that there has never been a decent tapas bar. Some have come and gone, but none have really done the greatest meal on earth justice: simple and flavourful, with a relaxed atmosphere and embracing enough food and wine options to suit everyone on the table.
Finally it has arrived.
Chef and owner Pablo del Rio doesn’t quite tout it as tapas, but it is. His new restaurant Zampa offers almost 30 small plates of regional nibbles that range from trout sliders to fried spinach and almond balls. He splits them into Fork, Spoon, Knife and Hands – indicating how you can expect to eat them.
Being Pablo Del Rio there are plenty of dishes to challenge your culinary adventurousness. Brain ravioli, tongue sliders and cow’s tail croquettes come to mind. If you aren’t familiar with the chef, Google ‘Siete Cocinas’. It was one of Mendoza’s top restaurants for years, serving a weird and wonderful tasting menu of dishes from the ‘seven cuisines’ of Argentina. Zampa is essentially the same, but the portions are smaller and the concepts are more simple and affordable for a wider audience. You’ll see some of the old favourites still there, like the famed Chivo (kid goat) and chewy chipa bread. But there’s also plenty of innovation on the menu.
The restaurant is in the same building as Siete Cocinas was, but Pablo has let a graffiti artist loose and the venue has changed from minimalist white to the most colourful building in Mendoza. There’s live music some nights (usually Thursday) and you can just sit at the bar and order cocktails too.
It has hands down become my new favourite spot in Mendoza, so much so that I went back twice in the first four days. Zampa offers good food, good wine, a fun atmosphere and a good price. What more could you ask for?
Prices are tricky in Mendoza because of inflation, but with one bottle of wine and four plates between two of us (which is enough!) we came out at around $600 a night including a tip (approx US $40). You should probably bring some extra cash for their great cocktails too…