Sara Zapian, the owner of new tapas bar Garnaxa (5213 Cedar, 713-667-3030), led an interesting life before moving here from Mexico seven years ago. She has been a photographer as well as a pilot, but it was her love of food that led her to culinary school in Houston. Almost a year ago, she purchased Tio Pepe, the classic Spanish restaurant in Bellaire. "Garnatxa" is the Catalan term for the Grenache red wine grape variety.
"I wanted to try a wine and tapas bar, so I located it next door to Tio Pepe," says Zapian. "Since I trained as a chef, I decided that I should go to Spain to learn how to make tapas. We will be making traditional as well as modern and contemporary tapas, and we will be serving wines from Spain, Chile and Argentina. We have a small place that is very intimate. While Tio Pepe has a loyal following, the customers are a little older, so for Garnaxa, we are seeking a younger crowd."
When we visited her one Saturday evening, we found the place small and inviting and the tapas both authentic and outstanding. The tortilla española (a thick potato, onion and egg omelet) is a classical favorite, as are the boquerones (fresh marinated anchovies — nothing like the cured versions you may shy away from) and the gambas al ajillo (shrimp with garlic).
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