Those who know me well know how much I enjoy variety in my meals, so a particular style of menu especially appeals to me. The Greeks originated the idea, calling it Mezes. The Italians in Venice adapted it to their cuisine and called it Cicchetti. But it was the Spanish, who brought the idea to the new world, who came up with the name that stuck... Tapas. Call it what you will (we had a restaurant in California in the early 80s that called it a grazing menu, can't imagine why that didn't catch on), but I for one am glad to see that it's gained in popularity... Here in St Louis we have a wealth of tapas choices covering a wide variety of ethnic cuisines. So I was incredibly pleased when a new tapas restaurant called Joyia recently opened. Needless to say I had to check it out; finding it truly fantastic, my next step was obvious!
Cuisine - Having now gone on and on about tapas, and notwithstanding that Joyia calls itself a tapas restaurant, the truth is that it is not. It would be more accurate to call it a "Mediterranean small plates" sort of restaurant. True tapas are traditionally very small plates, maybe only a few bites. At Joyia, the dishes range from appetizer-sized to nearly meal-sized! While this means you probably wouldn't get the half dozen or more dishes you'd likely get at a true tapas restaurant, it also means your choices are a bit easier. And such choices! With influences from around the Mediterranean, you might opt for Italian - such as Scallop Risotto (sea scallops in butternut squash risotto with caramelized onions and asparagus), or maybe Shrimp Margarita pasta. Or perhaps Spanish, with Chorizo Rollos (phyllo rolls with sausage, cheese, peppers, onions, potatoes, and black beans) or Pork Empanadas. Or even French, with Beef Bordelaise or Salmon Pistachio. Or Greek, with Spanikopita (spinach pie), Saganaki (flaming cheese), or Tuna Souvlakia. Or Lebanese, with Falafel or Lamb Tagine (braised lamb, butternut squash, apricots, orange, and saffron broth with couscous). And that's only a small portion of the menu! Selections are divided among Meats, Seafood, Kabobs, Vegetarian, and Pasta, as well as smaller sections of spreads, soups, salads, and sides. On my most recent visit, I had the Salmon Pistachio (pistachio-crusted salmon on sweet potato puree, with sauteed spinach and a cherry red wine sauce) and the Pork Empanadas (braised pork and rice in a fried pastry turnover with mango-apricot chutney), and both were delicious beyond belief. I can vouch for several others as well; the aforementioned scallops are amazing, as is their "sausage and grits", with andouille and Italian sausage over grits with basil and fresh mozzarella. If you haven't noticed yet, they have some amazing and creative dishes here! And better yet, every one is delicious!
Cost - I had a hard time figuring out how to place this dinner in the different cost categories I created for this group. I finally settled on "affordable feast", because you definitely can spend a fair amount of money here, but will eat like a king for your effort! On the other hand, the fact that the dishes range from appetizer-sized through almost a full meal means that if you aren't too hungry and only order one dish (or even two of the inexpensive ones), you can have a pleasant meal from under $10 to the mid teens, and still not go hungry. If you want a mid-sized meal, figure you'll probably order two of the main items on the menu. While soups, sides, spreads, and salads range from under $5 to almost $10, the rest of the menu ranges from under $10 to a high of $14. So even having two dishes (or one and a couple sides) you can keep it around $20. Having two larger, or three, dishes will definitely run you in the mid $20s or even higher. But again, for that price, you'll probably have more than you can eat. So the choice is yours!
Other Info -
- The restaurant is located on the northwest corner of Manchester and Taylor, which is the first signal east of Kingshighway on Manchester, in "the Grove".
- Parking is either on-street, OR they have a lot directly across Manchester from the restaurant, OR you can park in the lot behind Renard Paper company, across Taylor from the restaurant.
- The restaurant normally has a no-separate-checks policy, in part because tapas are commonly shared, which makes it hard to know who ordered what. But they will do separate checks for us! The server will ask your name to help keep the checks straight. Remember that while you are welcome, even encouraged, to share dishes, the rule is that if you order it, it will be on your check.
- Remember that a tapas menu means the kitchen is cooking a lot more dishes than a normal menu, so plan to relax and socialize and enjoy a leisurely dinner. Similarly, we'll be asking them to handle a lot of checks, so give them a few extra minutes if a lot of people are trying to pay at once.
- Because of the much larger response than I expected, I've expanded the event to be two nights... and we'll have almost the entire restaurant both nights! Please only sign up for one night or the other.
- And in order to make life a bit easier for the kitchen, please spread your arrival between 6:30 and 7:00 or so, this will help them be a bit less slammed!
I'll be looking forward to seeing lots of my foodie friends at Joyia on Wednesday the 6th of March!
Joyia Tapas Restaurant and Bar (http://www.joyiatapas.com/)