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Amelia Islander

España Restaurant & Tapas

Nov 06, 2017 11:22AM
This month we tip a toque to a cornerstone of the Amelia Island culinary scene, Roberto and Marina Pestana and their restaurant Espana. I love these folks, and if you’ve ever spent a few moments in their company, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Generosity abounds. Over the past 14 years, I have fallen in love with the wonderful people, the picturesque setting, and of course, the food. This year, my wife, Allie, celebrated her birthday hunkered down as Hurricane Irma had her way with most of the southeastern United States, so we took advantage of a rare quiet night a few weeks later to enjoy a belated birthday celebration. Our server, Jonathan, was inviting and very knowledgeable. He went over the evening’s specials, and we decided to start with an order of Oxtail Empanadas, homemade pastry stuffed with slow-cooked oxtail and goat cheese, deep fried, and served with a curry aioli. I ordered a glass of Evodia Garnacha to enjoy with our empanadas. The perfect mix of wild cherry and spice make this fruit-forward Spanish wine the perfect partner for the rich and complex flavors of the oxtail. The smooth texture and fruit finish delicately embrace the tangy chevre and flaky crust. Espana is known for their authentic paellas, but reading over the menu I wanted it all, so I opted to go the tapas route in order to experience as much of it as possible. Allie has a soft spot for fresh mozzarella and complete disdain for anything icky, like snails. I, on the other hand, was relieved not to have to share my Caracoles, escargot flambéed with garlic and onion and served in a creamy tomato sauce. The earthy flavor of the escargot and the acid from the tomatoes made the last little bit of my Garnacha worth saving. Everyone has a favorite dish at Espana, and a friend recommended that Allie try the grouper. She settled on the Mero a Lisboeta (Grouper a la Lisbon), fresh grouper filet topped with diced tomato, onion, capers and olives, with a tomato coulis. I ordered the Shrimp Ceviche and a glass of Martin Codaz Albarino, a Spanish white wine with bright fruit and lemon zest notes that complimented the diced shrimp cured in lime juice with onion, peppers and cilantro. I knew that Allie would be getting full soon, and it turns out the Albarino was a perfect pairing for the grouper, too. Both dishes were outstanding. I always save a little room for dessert, but tonight I had cleaned every plate that came to the table. Our server Jonathan tempted us with their creamy, delicious Flan or their homemade Tres Leches Cake, but we were so full we had to pass. The lovely indoor/outdoor atmosphere of the patio dining room made for the perfect place to linger and enjoy a few more minutes of grown-up time before it was back to the house to get everyone ready for bed and school in the morning. We decided that having to miss out on dessert was as much of an excuse as anyone could need to return soon. Espana Restaurant & Tapas is located at 22 N. 4th Street in downtown Fernandina Beach and is open every day from 5-10pm. Reservations are recommended.