“Tapas” are not merely a set of specific dishes or food presented in smaller portions, but rather, a statement of coming together and shortening distances among people, sharing casually, and embracing the good things in life in every moment. Tapas mean joyfulness because they normally involve celebration and abundance. Tapas are unexpected because you get whatever the kitchen is serving, and tapas are seasonal because life and nature should always be in sync.
Spain has exported its festive way of life to the world and this is what Mas is bringing to Charlottesville: a wonderful tapas bar with a local twist, praised for its food, mood lighting, and outdoor patio. It has also been awarded the “Best Restaurant in Town” prize by local C-VILLE magazine for multiple years. The playful chef and owner Tomas Rahal is a gourmand and a local institution. We met him, after several attempts, in the backyard of his restaurant, smoking rabbits with pinecones and wood. “I learned it from the Roca brothers, this is delicious! Come on, let’s sit inside and chat,” he said. He then grabbed a freshly made, crusty loaf of bread and poured some olive oil onto a white plate, “Would you like some wine?” This is Tomas, a friendly and passionate restaurateur, born and raised on an island in Georgia, from a Lebanese family, and who discovered Spain on a trip in 1988: he slept on the beaches of Barcelona.
Olives, bread, and aged manchego cheese. Membrillo, a bit of Jamon Iberico, and a glass of red wine. Papas bravas, pan con tomate (only when the tomatoes are in season), thick Spanish tortilla, and delicious boquerones en vinagre. Datil con Tocino skewers, grilled artichokes, and oil-fried smelt fish. Pan seared sea scallops, shrimps with alioli, and pulpo a la gallega. Carne asada, tuna fillets or lamb chops, and slow cooked suckling pig. The list of specialties at Mas is endless but you can never be sure of what is on the menu until you step into the restaurant. The menu and specials keep changing all the time, Spanish style. The only certainty is that the food is going to be great, because the local products and preparations are outstanding. They even prepare paellas or calçots with romesco (charred sweet onions traditional of Catalonia) during the summer season.
At Mas, they are also very serious about wines and sustainable winemakers. Their list of Spanish wines has been carefully selected over the years since they opened in 2003, and the list keeps adding treasures thanks to frequent trips to Spain.
You can choose a table for your tapas feast or, for smaller parties, sit at the impressive stone bar in front of the open kitchen. We suggest you sit here if you want to learn more about the food and its preparation. You might also have a word with the friendly cooks, when they are not too busy. Tapas are fun! But, no reservations, only walk-in. Sorry!
Phone: (434) 979-0990
Hours: Mon-Sat 5:30 p.m. – 2 a.m.
Text and photo: Edu Bayer