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A starving artist could ill afford to dine at Cafe Tu Tu Tango and leave with a full tummy. A recent dinner for two at the recently opened avant-garde establishment cost close to $50.

Entree portions at this cafe are intentionally downsized, and diners are encouraged to swap fare around the table. Nothing costs more than $8; the trouble is, you have to order at least four dishes to satisfy two normal appetites.

Entree portions at this cafe are intentionally downsized, and diners are encouraged to swap fare around the table. Nothing costs more than $8; the trouble is, you have to order at least four dishes to satisfy two normal appetites.

Ambience here is a curious yet entertaining blend of Mediterranean and artist's studio influences. There are actually artists at work while you eat in this minigallery, where art in various media decorates faux stucco walls and hangs from exposed overhead beams. A stilt walker and a female impersonator were sideshows during our meal. As one might expect, the mood is festive, even outrageous; the noise level loud.

Ambience here is a curious yet entertaining blend of Mediterranean and artist's studio influences. There are actually artists at work while you eat in this minigallery, where art in various media decorates faux stucco walls and hangs from exposed overhead beams. A stilt walker and a female impersonator were sideshows during our meal. As one might expect, the mood is festive, even outrageous; the noise level loud.

The multiethnic menu features chips, dips, breads and spreads, as well as soups, salads, fried delicacies, turnovers and Oriental rolls. There are brochettes and kabobs, pizzas, and an eclectic array of chicken wings, paella, barbecue ribs, seafood or quesadillas.

The multiethnic menu features chips, dips, breads and spreads, as well as soups, salads, fried delicacies, turnovers and Oriental rolls. There are brochettes and kabobs, pizzas, and an eclectic array of chicken wings, paella, barbecue ribs, seafood or quesadillas.

We began with a complimentary basket of triangular, pizzalike crusts dusted with garlic butter and herbs. Though the accompanying roasted red pepper butter was delicious, the bread would have been better warm. My corn and crabmeat chowder ($3,25) had a nice, rich flavor, though it contained more corn and potato than crab.

We began with a complimentary basket of triangular, pizzalike crusts dusted with garlic butter and herbs. Though the accompanying roasted red pepper butter was delicious, the bread would have been better warm. My corn and crabmeat chowder ($3,25) had a nice, rich flavor, though it contained more corn and potato than crab.

My husband's Oriental marinated steak skewer ($6) consisted of four generous and tender helpings of teriyaki seasoned skirt beef. It was paired with a delightful ginger-soy aïoli (garlic mayonnaise).

My husband's Oriental marinated steak skewer ($6) consisted of four generous and tender helpings of teriyaki seasoned skirt beef. It was paired with a delightful ginger-soy aïoli (garlic mayonnaise).

The Barcelona stir-fry ($8) was a colorful blend of shrimp, calamari, chicken, andouille sausage, mushrooms, bell peppers and garlic. Accompanied by a side-order of rice ($1.25), it was slightly larger than appetizer size. (The rice also made the dish more filling.) Despite the presence of sausage, we were unable to discern any smoky flavor.

The Barcelona stir-fry ($8) was a colorful blend of shrimp, calamari, chicken, andouille sausage, mushrooms, bell peppers and garlic. Accompanied by a side-order of rice ($1.25), it was slightly larger than appetizer size. (The rice also made the dish more filling.) Despite the presence of sausage, we were unable to discern any smoky flavor.

My chicken and poblano pizza ($6), baked in a brick oven, arrived last. There was plenty of melted cheese to complement a zesty marinara sauce, a healthy dose of peppers and a just-right thin crust. The chicken, however, was scant.

My chicken and poblano pizza ($6), baked in a brick oven, arrived last. There was plenty of melted cheese to complement a zesty marinara sauce, a healthy dose of peppers and a just-right thin crust. The chicken, however, was scant.

Dessert, likewise, was inconsistent. There were more silvered almonds and whipped cream than custard in my petite-sized almond and amaretto flan ($2.75), but the distinctive almond liqueur flavor was lovely.

Dessert, likewise, was inconsistent. There were more silvered almonds and whipped cream than custard in my petite-sized almond and amaretto flan ($2.75), but the distinctive almond liqueur flavor was lovely.

My husband's ice cream pie ($3.25) was gigantic by Tu Tu standards. Similar to a mud pie, the chocolate hazelnut and praline ice cream layers rested on a moist, chocolate spongecake crust. Topped with a cloud of whipped cream and thin, drizzled chocolate sauce, it was much better.

My husband's ice cream pie ($3.25) was gigantic by Tu Tu standards. Similar to a mud pie, the chocolate hazelnut and praline ice cream layers rested on a moist, chocolate spongecake crust. Topped with a cloud of whipped cream and thin, drizzled chocolate sauce, it was much better.

Service here was impressive; our server was efficient, accommodating and well-versed on food preparation. We especially liked the ice water carafe left on the table for self-serve refills.

Aesthetically, this 22,000-square-foot tapas factory, one of the anchors of the re-revitalized Church Street Station entertainment complex, is as grand and enticing a restaurant you’ll find in the city. The ambience, rich in fine details and accentuated by a gleaming bar, tile mosaics, sumptuous lighting and a cathedral ceiling, would’ve had me quoting Shakespeare, but my memory (or lack thereof) foiled a display of frivolous pretense. For what it’s worth, the passage I was groping for – Her beauty makes this vault a feasting presence full of light – is a fitting one. This Spanish beauty of a restaurant will ultimately capture your heart, but not before seducing your stomach.

The advantage in dining at a tapas joint (particularly one offering a whopping selection of 100 small plates from which to choose) is that you’re sure to find something you like. A miss will most surely be countered by a hit, with plenty of in-betweens thrown in for good measure. Ceviche doesn’t reinvent the tapas experience, but what it does, it does relatively well.

Sampling ceviche, a delicacy originating in the former Spanish colony of Peru, was practically a foregone conclusion, and the ceviche de atun ($11), a martini-glass assemblage of citrus-marinated tuna, red peppers, jalapeños, garlic and onions, made a cool introduction to the meal. Nothing awe-inspiring, but the dish was tangy, refreshing and had just enough kick to jump-start the affair. Our waiter assured us the Iberico ham ($8.50) was top-quality, and while I couldn’t confirm if the jamón was solely acorn-fed, my dining companions both agreed the thinly shaved meat, served on a crunchy baguette and topped with a triangle of aged manchego cheese, was melt-in-your-mouth perfect.

Another dish that had us cooing was the wonderfully gooey portobello relleno ($8). Wilted spinach, shallots and manchego stuffed the corpulent ’shroom, with contrasting brandy and sherry cream sauces providing a sop-worthy complement. The floral notes and fruity finish of a glass of velvety-smooth Wrongo Dongo Monastrell 2006 ($5.60) proved to be an even better complement to the tapas vegetales.

But not everything was wine and roses, a pointed example being when our accommodating (though somewhat forgetful) waiter mistakenly served us a plate of aromatic salmon a la gaditana ($9). The fish was remarkably bland, and the accompanying saffron sauce with leeks was equally insipid. Bacalao Bilbaina ($11) looked promising, the plump loin of cod glistening with olive oil and garnished with garlic cloves and fire-roasted peppers, but the flavor gave me an idea as to what a wet, chewy sock might taste like.

Luckily, I was able to cleanse my palate with oxtail (I don’t get to say that too often). Fall-off-the-bone tender rabo de toro ($11) is slowly braised in a red wine reduction and served atop cushiony potatoes: absolutely delicious, and the hit dish of the evening. Skewers of nicely seasoned chorizo were the hit of the banderillas mixtas ($8.50), which also came lanced with chewy tenderloin and ho-hum chicken, though repeated dips in the garlic aioli elevated each meaty bite.

Both desserts we sampled were outstanding. The creamy-drunk tres leches meringue cake with fresh berries ($7.50) won over more sweet-tooths than the trilogia de chocolates ($8), a moussey drum of white, dark and milk chocolates. Just about ready for a siesta, I ordered a double espresso, and while the brew did its part to recharge, the taste fell flat and the crema was nonexistent.

On the way out, I took a gander at the cold tapas bar, a centerpiece fixture that drew my eyes upward to the dangling gams of hams. Each lovely shank vied for the attention of patrons already bedazzled by the vault’s feasting presence.

When restaurants specializing in tapas, or small-plate appetizers, sprout across a city, it's an indicator of culinary maturation and refinement. Diners must be willing to accept smaller portions, while shifting their approach by exhibiting a readiness to share. And though Orlando is only slowly succumbing to the trend, there may be a time in the not-too-distant future when tapas bars will be as popular as sushi bars are today.

Thankfully, we're at a stage where the tasting plates offered up here, and at places like Olé Olé and Costa del Sol, are of the sort enjoyed by bar-hoppers all over the Iberian Peninsula, and not the sort of bastardized, overly trendy, fusion frou-frou found in larger cities in this country.

El Bodegon serves time-honored, and strongly flavored, tapas fare ' cured serrano ham, chorizo and honeycomb tripe, to name a few ' and garlic is expectedly ubiquitous in many of chef Francisco Figueiras' dishes. The gambas al ajillo ($9), plump curls of subtly sweet shrimp in a shallow bowl of bubbling sherry wine sauce, is absolutely sublime. Flecks of cilantro, chili pepper and diced bulbs of the stinking rose give the dish its aromatic and full-flavored essence, and if it weren't for fear of filling up too early, and seeming too greedy, I would've downed every single one of those succulent shellfish â?¦ so much for sharing.

Empanadas de bacalao ($6), a pair of perfectly crisp pastries stuffed with seasoned cod, halved, then artfully plated along with an olive salad, was another can't-get-enough-of-this dish. By the time the tortilla Española ($6) ' arguably the most popular tapas item in Spain ' arrived, a couple of bites were all I could muster. The thick wedges of caramelized onion-and-potato omelet cried for a splash of hot sauce, which disappointingly came in the form of a miniature bottle of Tabasco. A basic salsa picante would've been a better accompaniment to the somewhat insipid omelet.

A few swigs of sangria ($14.50 for a half-pitcher) provided the necessary respite before the main courses arrived. Yes, those in search of a more substantial meal can get their fill from a host of seafood, meat and poultry entrees. Traditional paella Valenciana ($21) made me feel like it was Sunday in Seville, not a Friday in Orlando. And though the green peas were a tad shriveled, the saffron-flavored rice (glistening with olive oil) gave the dish a superb moistness, and every paprika-spiked mouthful of succulent chicken, shellfish and red pepper was intensely exotic.

Two tenderloin slabs sitting atop pineapple circles characterized the medallones de solomillo primavera ($28). The steaks were cooked medium-well instead of the requested medium, but the flavor medley of the dish ' the sweetness of pineapple, the rich and creamy cognac demiglace, fresh-roasted vegetables and Spanish rice ' more than compensated.

The atmosphere is boisterous and festive, though when things quiet down toward closing time, you're better able to appreciate the trompe l'oeil on the arched columns, the brick walls and Spanish tile. Servers are amiable, eager to please and never hurried, so you won't feel pressured to race through your dishes, though when one asks about dessert, you may want to feign indecisiveness. A horribly salty flavor infused the peras al vino ($8), almond-specked pear halves cooked in Spanish wine and cinnamon. The crema catalana ($6) had a restrained citrus zest in the custard, but the top layer could've been caramelized a bit more. Your best bet is to head next door to Rocco's Italian Grille and order their tiramisu.

But like its Latin neighbor, El Bodegon is destined to become a popular gathering ground for foodies, and an anchor on the Winter Park dining scene.

The Valencian tomato-tossing festival known as La Tomatina is one of the best food-fight fêtes in the world, so one might expect an eatery celebrating that annual mayhem of messiness to be somewhat rowdy, raucous and a little saucy. Not so Mi Tomatina, a refined Hannibal Square tapas joint that fancies itself a paella bar. It's a small space, but the bold colors, 'Miró-inspiredâ?� décor and tables inlaid with mosaic tiles make it inviting. It's intimate enough to take your significant other for a special night out, but it's also a great place to meet up with friends for small plates and Spanish sherry, and the only vegetables likely to bonk you on the head are the falling acorns from the trees fronting the sidewalk tables.

Friends of mine had arrived before me, and I was surprised to see one of my guests enjoying a complimentary flight of tasting-sized Spanish wines. Our waiter, in fact, was quite encouraging when it came to sampling whatever we wished, even some aged Faraon sherry ($10), which I thoroughly enjoyed alongside the scores of tapas items we ordered.

Starting the meal off with marinated olives ($6) is never a bad idea, but the hongos rellenos ($9), portobello mushroom caps stuffed with serrano ham and crowned with shaved manchego, had my friends buzzing at the very first bite. The hongos were just one of a slew of standout items on a bill of fare comprising 24 hot and cold tapas dishes. Entremeses ($12), a platter of mixed meats, cheeses and two compotes, makes a great sharing plate. Of the meats ' chorizo, morcilla, Spanish salami, cured pork loin and serrano ham ' only the latter disappointed. It was dry and bland, which only served to accentuate the ham's saltiness. The cured pork loin, or lomo, was melt-in-your-mouth good, while mahon, manchego and tetilla cheeses were promptly devoured along with fig and raisin compotes. Papas bravas ($6) incorporates all the comfort of home fries, but with an herbaceous kick thanks to a liberal splashing of truffle oil and fresh parsley.

Tortillas (not the Mexican variety) are arguably the most popular tapas item in Spain. The chorizo version ($6) served here may veer from the traditional in terms of look and feel, but the flavors were impressive nonetheless. Layers of egg, potato and onion form the bite-size cuboids, given a peppery jolt from a spread of pimentón aioli, while fat rounds of chorizo atop the savory cakes lend a smoky textural contrast. Baby lamb chops ($12) are dressed with fresh mint and served with a rioja wine reduction ' not outstanding, but certainly a worthy-enough option to sink your teeth into.

Sampling paella at a paella bar is practically a must. Here you can opt for the five they offer, or create your own from a host of available ingredients. (They serve two or three people, something to keep in mind before going loco on the tapas.) They even have a version with hard-to-find Spanish squid ink ($36) ' it's prone to staining lips and teeth, so be wary if you're on a date. A paella de champiñones ($28) offers a vegetarian alternative to all the meat-heavy fare, but the plump assortment of wild mushrooms makes it, ironically, a meaty dish. One note: As much as I dug for the socarrat, the prized crispy, caramelized rice layer at the bottom of the pan, I didn't find as much as I'd hoped.

Suggesting you leave room for dessert may sound absurd after such an indulgence, but do leave room for the San Marcos cake ($7), spongy chiffon soaked in rum, layered with Chantilly cream and embellished with a crème brûlée crusting. The flan ($7) suffered from the competing flavors of the strawberry sorbet topping and a pool of nose-flaring sherry.

Aesthetics clearly play a large part in the eatery's approach to small plates, and while the tapas trend has led some purists to cop an 'If it's pretty, it's not real tapasâ?� mindset, Mi Tomatina is out to prove such purists otherwise.

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