Bar Beat: Zambra

Entering Zambra, you could get the feeling that the place is the brainchild of a mad Spanish admirer of Captain Nemo. The light is low; the decor mixes classical arches and modern curves; old pipes, complete with pressure gauges, jut up from the winding bar. Given its location, running alongside Walnut Street and partially under Haywood Street, the whole establishment has the aura of an undiscovered country.

Photo by Jonathan Welch

Zambra is particularly well stocked with wine, featuring a wide-ranging selection of Spanish wines of all types (more than 200, in fact), including a considerable port selection. Zambra just received Wine Spectator‘s Award of Excellence, and it’s not the first the restaurant has received that honor.

The selection of liquors completes the exotic feel and if one is ever in the mood for something completely unique, either as a cocktail or straight up, this is the place.

Take, for example, Licor 43, or Cuarenta y Tres, a Spanish citrus liquor that ranks among the most delicious around. It’s sweet—but not too much so—and slides down all too easily. The taste, like the locale, is utterly unique in Asheville.

A similar approach is taken with the cocktails. This is one of the only places in town to find a Sazerac. One of the oldest cocktails, the drinks uses flavors that far too many places seem to have forgotten, such as rye whiskey and bitters.

Zambra also has—wonder of wonders—newly legal absinthe (be aware, it’s $12 a pop).

Being a tapas restaurant, Zambra is just about perfect for bar treats. While a full dinner, though quite an experience, can become pricey, sharing one of their light plates (the scallops are particularly delicious) and having a drink or two remains within the affordable range.

Zambra’s ambiance also encourages the sort of socializing that is the true lifeblood of a bar. There is, blessedly, not a TV in sight here to distract from the mood. Despite being in the middle of downtown, it’s a wonderful spot to step out of time for a little while, and get away from the crowd, maddening or otherwise.

Zambra is located at 85 Walnut St. Nonsmoking. For more information, call 232-1060.

A Bar Beat correction: A recent Bar Beat column on “Signature Summer Drinks” erroneously reported that Temptations has new ownership; in fact, its ownership remains the same. And while the article noted that the establishment’s “once-titanic list of 100-plus unusual martinis is sadly a thing of the past,” it should also have noted the happy fact that Temptations still serves more than 60 different martinis.

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