AT EL BODEGON, the Iberian Spanish restaurant as opposed to La Fonda, the Latin American one next door, all the waiters have impenetrable accents; very few of the customers do. Fortunately, the menu and wine list translate and describe the offerings accurately, for the language barrier is formidable.
But the waiters are jolly, and seemingly candid, so conversations between waiters are constantly attempted, and fun to eavesdrop on -- as a waiter trying to convince a skeptical lady that a dish primarily of eels and squid could be muy deeleesuss.
And the unexpected can be expected. As when a table-for-two points to a table of eight indicating that they'd also enjoy a pitcher of wine cooler. Then discovering they'd ordered a pitcher of pin a coladas.
But a contretemps was readily averted, with the help of the mai tre and the fact that the table of eight was ready for more pin a coladas.
And most of the menu offerings do not include eels or squid -- octopus simmered in its ink has to be ordered in advance -- the prices are moderate, especially for the fine Spanish wines. Some entrees are served for two, or more; and a sampling of multiple dishes can be ordered. At least once during a meal, the mai tre will come by with a glass version of a goatskin carafe. Say ah and you get a mouth full of wine.
On a first visit to El Bodegon, you wonder why a cane chair with a corner of the seat worn to a frazzle sits next to the fireplace -- none of the other chairs are cane or frazzled. You begin to get an inkling when the waiters bring in a stage of 4'-by-6" plywood about 3 inches thick.
The guitarist enters, strumming his own fanfare, and sets his right foot firmly on the frazzle. He does a number, then announces the flamenco dancer -- the famed flamenco artist -- who flounces in, to another furiously strummed fanfare, all ruffles and multiple petticoats, lace and fringe.
Flamenco dancing has a limited following of real devotees, outside of Spain. As with bagpipes, a small room is not the ideal milieu. But now and then, it's fun to marvel at the counterpoint of foot stomping and castanets. Be sure you've finished the souffle' before the show goes on.
EL BODEGON -- 1637 R St. NW. The flamenco performances are Friday-Saturday, Monday-Thursday, occurring about every hour and a half in each dining room. Hours for lunch, 11:30-2:30. Monday-Thursday, the kitchen closes about 10:30; Friday-Saturday, kitchen open until about midnight or later. Salad, entree and vegetables (the menu is mostly a la carte): $10 to $22.667-1710.