The following review appears in The Washington Post’s 2016 Spring Dining Guide.
The red interior with the high ceilings and the glittering chandeliers couldn’t be more regal than if the king of Spain were sitting next to you. Yet the trick to ordering well at Taberna del Alabardero is to focus on the basics (and the tapas list): anchovies shimmering in vinegar, tender baby squid served with rice and a tomato-bread sauce, molten ham croquettes dispensed in a little fry basket. Conversation is put on hold as everyone watches cod carpaccio and marinated salmon get unleashed from a glass cloche filled with smoke, part of a mosaic completed with olives and tomato balls. But the fun is more in the show than in the flavors. And hen soup with thin noodles, a quail egg and a cracker sail seems lost in translation. The paella — grace mine with lobster, mussels and calamari, por favor — is as grand as the room in which it’s presented. Come dessert, rice pudding bests the flan. As expense-account places go, this one, near the city’s corridors of power, impresses as much with overheard conversations (“As the prime minister told me ...”), many in Spanish, as anything else.
→1776 I St. NW. 202-429-2200. alabardero.com.
Open: Lunch Monday through Friday, dinner daily.
Prices: Lunch entrees $26 to $38, dinner entrees $28 to $52 or prix fixe $80.
Sound check: 70 decibels / Conversation is easy.
Previously (2007): 2.5 stars