Helen Schwab

First Bite: Tapas 51 in Fort Mill

From the grill (the menu’s churrasco section): Two chicken skewers, with pickled red onions and a honey-guajillo sauce (the sweetness just nudging around the bright edges of this chile, pronounced gwa-HEE-yo), and a big, beautiful flour tortilla.
From the grill (the menu’s churrasco section): Two chicken skewers, with pickled red onions and a honey-guajillo sauce (the sweetness just nudging around the bright edges of this chile, pronounced gwa-HEE-yo), and a big, beautiful flour tortilla. HELEN SCHWAB

First Bites is a look at restaurants that have opened recently, not a full-fledged review.

The food: Chef Aaron Rivera (some will know him from his Chrome Toaster food truck) aims at a considerably wider range here, playing with ingredients and presentation and dish names. He calls the fare “modern Hispanic tapas,” and the influences are legion: Yucca huancaina poutine (think Peruvian and French-Canadian) to “Arriba Arepa!” (think French-French and Colombian and African – it employs a version of fufu made with plantains, in addition to its duck confit) to a simple plate of North Carolina greens with crunchy pumpkin seeds, perfect strawberries and lengths of glossed-with-spice jicama.

And several ceviches! (And with interesting garnishes for this seafood “cooked” with citrus.) Although significant elements in several dishes had trouble in this early visit (tough bits of brisket in tacos to hardened yucca in the poutine), flavors did well overall, and a couple of combos were both excellent and intriguing. The menus list farms and suppliers, and they’re not all the usual suspects, as befits a smaller, more flexible outfit.

The look: You might have called the interior, in its previous life as Passion8, Victorian, or simply dark. Now it’s contemporary and considerably brighter (that green wall!), though a bit sparsely furnished. Handsome art photos and some still lifes dot the walls, and seating is segmented: larger and smaller dining areas, bar area, patio out front (I’ll wait until it’s considerably cooler for that). Soccer fans will find it televised and enthusiastically supported.

The service: Friendly and attentive, servers know the dishes for the most part, though some are still getting the array of chiles straight, but are willing to track down answers they don’t have. You’ll be asked if you’re familiar with the concept of tapas – small plates, served as they’re ready – which is smart; at least two tables on our visit clearly were getting used to the notion.

The details: Dishes run $5-$11 (plus market price on seafoods and specials); lunch and dinner Tuesday-Saturday. 3451 S.C. 51 North in Fort Mill; 803-548-1612; www.provechorestaurantgroup.com/provecho.

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