The lamb tagine at Joyia Tapas (4501 Manchester Avenue; 314-531-5300) is a hearty stew for a winter evening, a golden broth perfumed with saffron and thick with hunks of lamb, apricot, orange rind and slivered almond. The lamb is very tender, and the sweetness of the fruits, mellowed by cooking, acts as a simple foil to the meat's strong flavor. On the side is a mound of herbed couscous. You can eat this by itself or stir it into the stew.
I hardly need to tell you this lamb tagine doesn't sound like tapas -- and not simply because it isn't a Spanish bar snack. We've already lost the war to protect the original meaning of the term tapas, our battlements unable to withstand the hordes of trend-humping Visigoths. No, the issue here is size. In its portion and plating, the lamb tagine looks more like an entrée, and most diners could enjoy it as such without another thought.
Order it as tapas, however, and even if you share it, you might find your appetite for more tapas diminished.
So: Joyia Tapas pushes the boundaries of what could -- or should -- be considered "small plates". How does the food rate on its own merits, though? Read my full review tomorrow.
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