Location: 528 17th Ave SW (Beltline)
After months of not getting out due to studying, work, and whatever other excuses I came up with, I finally got a girls’ night out. I hadn’t seen either of these ladies for a very long time and we had so much catching up to do. This was my second time at a tapas bar and even now, I still can’t get over how expensive tapas bars can be. On the one hand, portion sizes are small, so that you can try out everything, but on the other hand, they are so expensive that my wallet literally cries because I’m only a poor student…sorta student…
With tapas I never know how much to order, so it’s always a good idea to start with a few dishes and hold onto the menu and order more if necessary. We started with four dishes: fried artichoke, fried goat cheese, fresh zucchini ribbon salad, a pan roasted duck breast, and an albacore tuna. Now, typically I’m not a fan of artichokes, in particular, pickled artichoke hearts, but deep fried anything is delicious. The fried artichoke was served in a small bowl atop a quince aioli and lemon. The lemon was virtually undetectable and very little of the quince flavour came through in the creaminess of the aioli. For those who don’t know, quince is a pear-like fruit that has a slightly tart taste, often added to fried dishes to counterbalance the greasiness. As an aioli, I felt that it added to the greasiness and the tartness was neutralized by the mayonnaise-like qualities of aiolis. But the artichokes were slightly seasoned and went well with the aioli. This dish makes me like artichokes a little more than I used to. With the fried goat cheese we were given the choice of being served the dish on its own or having bread with it. We chose to have it as it. I don’t know if you’ve ever had deep fried cheese of any kind, but I have to say, deep fried goat cheese is so amazing! Like the fried artichokes, the cheese was served with sauces and garnishes made to counterbalance the richness of the cheese. My first impression of the dish when it came out was that it looked like a giant croquette. The blood orange and date sauce was a beautiful crimson. There was just enough that you could taste a bit of the tartness (again to counter the grease, I don’t know how many times I’m going to have to say that), but not so much that it overpowered the dish or drenched the cheese. The candied walnuts on top added the final touch of perfection. Actually candied anything is delicious. It would have been nice to have it with a slice of baguette or on a crostini, but it’s still fantastic on its own. The next dish to come out was the zucchini ribbon salad. I expected it to be a bit more than it actually was. With lemon and mint, I just expected it to be a fresher tasting salad than it was. It would have been nice if the zucchini had been pickled prior to its addition to the salad. The manchego cheese didn’t really taste of much and neither added nor detracted from the salad; it was kinda just there. The pan roasted duck breast, the most expensive dish of the night at $18. It was by far my favourite. Duck is a typically rich, dark meat, so I wasn’t surprised that it would again be paired with something tart: oranges. The duck was cooked and seasoned beautifully, the centre still being slightly pinkish red. Unfortunately the picture I took was a bit shaky and out of focus and does not do this magnificent dish justice. The last dish was the albacore tuna…and I don’t handle raw fish too well, but tonight I decided to just go for it. It was seared along the edges and served on top of a lemon aioli, sprinkled with fried capers and topped with roasted cherry tomatoes. The citrus aiolis here really don’t work at all. I could not taste the lemon and honestly felt like I was just putting a lot of cream onto my tuna. The tomato and capers did nothing to compliment the tuna at all. Frying capers pretty much destroyed it’s inherently weird, but complementary-to-raw-fish taste. The tuna itself was superb, but I don’t think I could eat it again.
By this point we were getting to be pretty full, but we felt that we could order just a tad bit more. So for our second round we ordered a croquetta and a Mediterranean salad. Due to all the deep fried rich foods we had eaten in the previous round, I started to sound like a frog…then it was a choking, hacking, dying frog…thank goodness I was ignored for that part of the conversation…quite frankly, it was gross. The croquetta was a salt cod and potato croquetta served with some sort of aioli and chili sauce. I was excited to try this one because I really love spicy foods, but nope. I tasted nothing but creamy aioli and the actual croquetta? That was like a mouthful of salt. After all, it was salt cod, so what was I supposed to be expecting? I think it would have been nice with a small glass of some kind of beer, but I know nothing about alcohol and how it complements a meal. But I can’t complain about how nice and crunchy the croquetta was. At one point I expressed my concern that I was afraid that I was going to send it flying off my plate and into the face of the lady at the table next to us. Thank goodness that didn’t happen. The Mediterranean salad was kinda weird to me. It had local tomatoes & cucumbers, roasted onion, goat feta, crispy chorizo, and a kale salsa verde. Like the zucchini ribbon salad, I expected it to be a bit more tart, which it wasn’t. The kale salsa verde was something new and I felt that it just didn’t work. The goat feta would have provided a good contrast if there was any tartness to the dish. And the crispy chorizo…that lived up to its name. Very crunchy…
Lastly, for dessert we shared a basque cake. I have a weakness for anything almond, so this was a must. For a tapas bar I should have expected something small, but somehow I hoped it would be larger, it wasn’t. This basque cake sliver had chunks of fruit in it, I’m not quite sure what kind it was, but I want to say rehydrated apricots and was lightly dusted with confectioners’ sugar. I loved the top and bottom of the cake because it tasted like caramelized sugar. The cake itself wasn’t too sweet, which I liked, but the chunks of fruit didn’t seem to fit.
For the sizes of the dishes I never expected to be full, but I was. It’s funny how something so small can fill you up so much. The staff were friendly enough and you never had to worry about your glass being empty; there was always a waiter or waitress close enough to top up your drink at all times. The place can get a bit noisy, but it’s all part of the atmosphere, so if you don’t mind then it’s great. There were times we were yelling, but I’m always yelling so I didn’t feel like I was out of place. Earlier in the evening it was a bit quieter and I sounded like I was talking way too loud. However I couldn’t believe how much our bill was at the end of the night. We had ordered a total of eight items (and my friends ordered a couple beers) and our bill came to around $110.
I would definitely recommend going to a tapas bar just to try it out, but keep in mind that if you’re looking for a cheap meal, this is not the place to go. This place in particular can get really busy really fast, so if you plan on going, I would recommend making a reservation. For me, this place was underwhelming and I expected a lot more from the dishes, particularly, for some sort of contrast and complement within the dishes. The service was good and all, but it is the food that speaks for the establishment. Based on everything, I would have to rate this place a 3.25/5. However, if I were to go back I would like to try the Spanish Table or Paella.