I visited La Bodega on a Friday night in early September. It was a first date, and I thought that a Spanish tapas bar would be perfect -- ordering a variety of dishes provides plenty of discussion topics and less risk of one of us disliking our meal. I was a little concerned about the atmosphere, as many of the reviews I read said it was loud and conversation was difficult.
I arrived earlier than my date, and sat at the bar for a minute. The restaurant was busy, but not overwhelmed. This was at 7:00, so later it might be more lively -- apparently they have an active bar scene. When my date arrived we were shown to a cozy table in the back corner with cushioned benches rather than chairs. We declined a table on the patio, since it had been raining off and on all day. It turned out to be a pleasant evening, but inside was fine.
We ordered five tapas dishes, two cold and three warm. They came out in a very well-paced series; we never had more than two dishes on the table at any one time.
Pan Plano con Salmon Ahumado
Flat bread, goat cheese, smoked salmon, cucumbers, capers, balsamic glaze and chives
This dish was rather petite and would have been difficult to share with more than two, but it was a nice entry into dinner. I would have liked a bit more salmon, but the goat cheese spread and the balsamic glaze were delicious. It was reminiscent of a bagel and lox, but much richer.
Ensalada de Mariscos Mediteranea
Shrimp, scallop and squid salad with onion, tomato, cilantro and lime
This cold salad was really tasty -- not a ceviche but reminiscent of one. It was a large portion, easily enough to pass around a group. There was quite a bit more squid than shrimp or scallop, but I loved it. My date said that she didn't like squid, and picked out the tentacles, but had no problem with the rings. At the end of the night she claimed this dish as her favorite, and I might agree with her.
Queso de Cabra Al Horno
Goat cheese baked in tomato sauce and garlic bread
A sizzling hot plate with a large dollop of goat cheese surrounded by a pool of tomato sauce. This was delicious to spread on the accompanying garlic bread. I would have expected a drizzle of olive oil to help a bit with the sharpness of the cheese and the acidity of the tomato. There was olive oil on the table but I chose to eat the dish as prepared. A very nice plate.
Ahi a la Parrilla
Seared ahi tuna with an olive tapenade served on tomato bread
My first bite of the ahi was not pleasant -- but I can't say why. Maybe it was mental or maybe my palate wasn't clear, but I was initially disappointed. However my next bite was amazing and in the end I think this was my favorite dish. The tuna was seared just enough to make the texture interesting and give a bit of grill flavor to the meat, while the raw center was toothsome and fresh. The biggest disappointment was the size of the plate. It included just four very small pieces of tuna.
Shrimp wrapped with pancetta, served with horseradish cream sauce
This is the dish I was looking forward to most, and I was a little let down. The shrimp were cooked through, maybe a tad overcooked although just barely. The pancetta was lacking in flavor. The horseradish sauce didn't seem to fit with the dish. I don't know if that is a traditional sauce, but it didn't complement the shrimp or the meat. It was also disappointing that the plate included five shrimp. When would five shrimp be appropriate? Only if there are five diners -- otherwise someone has to sacrifice their share. Is it too much to ask to adjust the plate based on the number of diners?
After the meal, my date ordered the Spanish coffee, which is a house specialty drink. A wine glass is rimmed with sugar. About an ounce of Bacardi 151 rum is set alight in the glass, which begins to melt the sugar. While it is burning, the server sprinkles cinnamon into the glass. Some of the cinnamon sparkles and flies up, creating a fireworks show over the glass. It is really pretty and gets a lot of attention. Once the 151 has burned off, the server adds Kahlua, coffee, and whipped cream. I'm not a coffee drinker, but it looked delicious and my date confirmed. She was unable to finish it all, so it would be perfect to share.
All-in-all, it was a very enjoyable dining experience. At $70 before tax or tip, it was a bit expensive if you are basing it on quantity -- that area of Kansas City is full of Mexican restaurants where $10 gets you a huge meal. I didn't leave stuffed, but the pacing of the dishes kept me satisfied, and for a fine dining restaurant it was delicious. They also have a happy hour menu and a late night menu with a (limited) selection of half-priced plates and drink specials.
This review is for the Kansas City location, not Leawood.
703 Southwest Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64108