EXECUTIVE CHEF David Plonowski of Bar Pintxo has an extensive culinary background, including training in Spain, where he spent three years.

One recent Saturday night I had the random pleasure of discovering a Santa Monica gem: Bar Pintxo.

The dangling sign outside reads, “Spanish Wine and Tapas” and there are bulbs of colorful lights hanging above. With the walls lined with bottles of wine and the smell of bacon permeating all around (from the bacon-wrapped dates), happiness just fills the room because it must be said: tapas are happiness.

As is this next repeated cocktail theme – sangria. Yes, it seems regardless of the food type, sangria has made a comeback at just about every restaurant. That said, here at Bar Pintxo, it is certainly more befitting.

The beaming smiles from the chefs (executive chef David Plonowski and sous chef Brad Matthews) behind the tapas bar only confirm that this is indeed a playful stop. Plonowski comes from an extensive culinary background, including training in Spain – an unexpected stop – where he went for a visit and ended up staying for three years.

Bar Pintxo has all the makings of a truly great story: authentic Spanish fare, chefs with an array of experience and very colorful backgrounds (Matthews is the son of a butcher), and the success of owner Joseph Miller (of Joe’s Restaurant on Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice) behind it.

There are also insatiable menu options like chorizo empanadillas (no, not empanadas), d‡tiles rellenos (bacon-wrapped dates that taste like mini wrapped bites of heaven), pat/ de buey con rabanos (beef liver pat/), pollo al chilindr—n (juicy shredded chicken), platos de quesos (cheese plate – chef’s choice), and the off-the-menu-surprise for the evening: the crab sandwich bathed in Spanish beer batter, cooked to crispy perfection and perfectly spined.

I also ordered the 2007 Belezos-Crianza Rioja: perfectly paired with the queso, d‡tiles rellenos, and pat/ with wonderful undertones of fruit and spice; a sultry, earthy wine. Bar Pintxo is a true Spanish tapas restaurant – all of the beer and wine actually hail from Spain. (Oh and yes, I did sip the sangria – refreshing).

In essence, Bar Pintxo is for everyone. If you like a casual, but perfectly sophisticated, non-pretentious atmosphere, food that engages your palate, a very impressive selection of Spanish wine and beer, chefs that are there to greet you with a smile and a complete willingness to feed you – this is where you go.

Bar Pintxo is at 109 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica. (310) 458-2012

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