Fandango: Not Only a Dance, but Some Food You Should Know
Fandango, tucked into Kalamazoo’s downtown district is one of few tapas restaurants in the city and yet is a world all its own. With broad windows and intimate booths it takes strides to serve a social and sophisticated Spanish cuisine. The place is bustling with the seventy-five or so people that are seated at the closely placed square tables. Rock jazz, with the bass level too high, lightly booms from the kitchen. The waitresses scurry about in their black attire from candlelit table to candlelit table refilling waters and bringing out the next dish that is finished from the kitchen, just past the semi-circle barely lit bar that serves out Guinness from a can and flirty seven dollar martinis of nearly every flavor.
Little red and green plates dot each table in polite stacks and similar plates of varying sizes carry various food. On any given table there are foods such as paella: a common Spanish rice dish complimented with sea food, chicken or beef, as well as other dishes such as lobster, scallops or steaks. The mood lighting with deep maroon walls makes any college kid feel like a sophisticated and established “grown-up,” with real fabric napkins and no children’s menu. If someone were to drop into this place through the ceiling, they might imagine themselves to be in Chicago or some hopping city of socialites, a pleasant variation from buffet-style cafeteria food. It also looks like the places e-harmony sends people to hang out, but that is beside the point.
The point is, from smoked salmon to rabbit and rattlesnake sausage, this tapas restaurant has enough variety in their plates to please any sampler’s palate while at the same time providing an exquisite atmosphere: a change of pace for those used to the fluorescent glare of college dining lights, and a family component for those students who may be longing for home.
Tapas cuisine gives each person involved the chance to bring something to the table. Each dish is brought out as it is finished and then passed amongst the diners “family style” for each person to try.
The Fandango Empanada, for instance, doused in soy sauce and sesame seeds allow the tangy of the sauce to provide a pleasant contrast to the crumble of the croissant: the spice of the peppers and onions with the chicken. If more than a few bites are taken at one time, though, the soy would seem to win out.
One of the larger plates is the artichoke and spinach dip served with pita chips. The hot plate is unapologetically left on the table for the people to find space for, attempting to pass it along without burning anyone on the heated dip. The taste is exquisite, however. The pita chips provide the perfect crunch without being too salty and thick chunks of artichoke comprise much of the dip; while hard to get on the chip, the dip has the golden ratio of spinach, to cheese, to chunk.
Another dish worth tasting is the chorizo and squash crepe. The thin sheet of crepe is topped with various Spanish cheeses, and underneath is a puree of squash and chorizo with a texture similar to baby food: if baby food was fiery and delicious. For something more substantial the flank steak, is a unique take on the traditional manly punch of seasoned beef. Finished in balsamic vinegar, the steak has a more subdued but equally satisfying in taste.
If looking for something even more familiar, the Spanish twist on the “All American” dish of mac and cheese is the way to go. Baked with melted cheese on the top, the thick shell noodles are plump enough to burst in the mouth. The Spanish cheeses lack the familiarity of cheddar, but this by no means detracts from the taste. The white cheeses are not weighty but instead hang perfectly on the noodles. A much better upgrade from the sticky cemented mac in a cafeteria. The sauce is the perfect casually, yet dressy attire for the Spanish Mac—dressed like most of the people in the restaurant.
Fandango is definitely not a place to go alone. Dining alone could leave a wallet empty, a stomach too full, and a tongue overwhelmed from tasting. Each dish is reasonably priced, ranging from seven to fifteen dollars, so with a large group of people it is a lot of food for the price. If each person orders two dishes from the menu, customers will find themselves drowning in the beautiful variety. The only downside is having to barter with fellow diners to see who orders what because no one wants to order the same thing at the table as someone else. It brings to mind the “family style” like a parent asking their child “so what do you want for dinner tonight?” and the kid always answers “I don’t know, what do you want?”
Leftovers are out of the question as well, if a group is hungry. Not a single take-out box appears on an evening. Not that anyone would need one. Serving plates are taken back to the kitchen virtually empty and at that point everyone should be the best kind of full: content but not stuffed.
Tapas dining is a great experience to share with close friends and family, and Fandango is a nice place to do it. It is the kind of place where each person could try something different each time, rather than ordering a favorite off of the menu. Varying greatly from college food that some may be acquainted with, it is a great place to experiment, but still feel grounded in familiar tastes, much like the atmosphere amid the Kalamazoo aesthetic: familiar yet distant. Fandango is a great time and taste to be had.