A couple of weeks ago, fellow food bloggers Tim and Tara and I headed over to Fenix for a Thursday evening dinner. While the meal was decent, the highlight of the evening was the conversation. Because we all seemed to have a great time, we decided to get together again but to try our hand at tapas. Since I had never been to a tapas restaurant, I was glad to join in and, hopefully, get some guidance from Tim and Tara.
We arranged a time to meet and Tim was gracious enough to make a reservation. I was the first to arrive at the DC Ranch area and the parking lot was an interesting obstacle course. but I was lucky enough to find a spot near the elevator that took me to the second floor of the complex where the entrance to Sol y Sombra was located.
Since I wasn’t sure if Tim and Tara had arrived, I walked in to take a look around and the volume level hit me like a sack of wet cement. It wasn’t just loud; it was very uncomfortable. I looked around and realized that I had been the first to arrive, so I headed back to the entrance and waited. Tara arrived and said Tim was parking the car. She peeked into the restaurant and immediately said, “Wow, it’s really loud.”
Tim joined us shortly thereafter and we were taken to the back of the restaurant and seated at a table for four. We were handed menus as well as a list of specialty drinks. Our server arrived and asked us for our drink order. Tim and Tara just stayed with water and I ordered a Diet Coke ($2.50). Our server advised us to order a few plates at first and then to add more as we needed.
After a review of the menu, we chose our first plates. Tim ordered the Gazpacho ($8.00). Tara had the Romaine Hearts with Garlic Dressing and Sauteed Shrimp ($12.00). I selected the Soft Lettuce Salad with Manchengo Cheese and Marcona Almonds ($9.00). We also ordered a plate of the Pan Con Tomate ($4.00) and the Bocadillo de Chorizo with Scrambled Egg ($8.00).
Within a couple of minutes, Tim’s Gazpacho arrived and it was served in a beautiful, but simple bowl. What immediately struck me was the consistency of the cold soup. It looked creamy; a fairly radical departure from traditional gazpacho. Tara passed on the soup because she wasn’t a fan but I took a taste. I am not much of a fan of gazpacho either, but I really liked the complexity of the soup. Tim liked the soup as well and had no problems polishing it off.
As this point, there was a very odd period where various people arrived at our table trying to bring us dishes that we hadn’t ordered. First, we were brought an order of the asparagus. Then, it was the serrano ham dish. This was followed by a dish of chorizo. Oddly, when we would say the dish wasn’t ours, we would get a curt “Are you sure?” from the staff.
The Soft Lettuce Salad with Manchengo Cheese and Marcona Almonds arrived and looked like an artistic head of lettuce. In essence, bibb lettuce and some romaine were mixed with a slightly tangy, but somewhat creamy dressing. We all liked the texture and taste of this salad, particularly the dressing. What surprised me, however, was how mild the cheese was. It was almost tasteless. The almonds added a very welcome crunch that contrasted well with the lettuces.
The Romaine Hearts with Garlic Dressing and Sauteed Shrimp was presented on a very long plate with the hearts of romaine dressed on one side and a stack of five shrimp on the other. The romaine hearts were fantastic. Crisp, fresh and cold, the lettuce was wonderful. What struck all of us was the intensity of the garlic dressing. It was phenomenal. We all agreed this was the best thing on the plate. I didn’t have any of the shrimp, but they seemed to be okay based on the comments from Tim and Tara.
The Pan con Tomate was a plate of four slices of thick-sliced bread topped with butter, garlic and tomato puree. After each finishing a piece, there was no consensus on the bread. I thought the flavors were really bright and tasted a lot of tomato and garlic. Tara thought the flavors were subtle and that was appealing. Tim felt the bread was rather bland in taste. We did like the texture of the bread, but it was interesting that we all tasted something different.
The Bocadillo de Chorizo with Scrambled Egg was a sandwich composition of soft, white bread, cheese, eggs and chorizo. Well, we thought it was supposed to contain chorizo. The bread was soft and light, the eggs creamy and the taste was good. But Tim and I couldn’t detect chorizo to save our lives. We saw flecks of what was chorizo, but even those small flecks should have contained some flavor. Instead, the lack of any kick from the chorizo just made this an egg sandwich. A very good egg sandwich, but not much else.
At this point we returned to the menu and placed another order. We selected the Tuna en Estillo ($10.00), the Roasted Mushrooms ($12.00), the Patatas Bravas ($7.00) and the Pollo Colonial ($10.00). I had also selected the Pear with Goat Cheese and Almond ($8.00), but our server indicated he would bring that at the end of the meal since it was more “dessert like.”
While we waited, we finally had a chance to relax and take in the surroundings. The interior was spartan. The walls were blue grey but were bare and the only decorations were the bowls holding candles that sat on the window sills. Those combined with the concrete floors amplified the noise and made the volume level very high. It was a very hip look inside, but a few flairs with art would have really brought the room some warmth.
The Tuna en Estillo was a small oval bowl of a tuna mix served with big chunks of water crackers. Tuna wasn’t my thing, so I was more than happy to rely on Tim for his impressions. Overall, he seemed happy with the dish. He did say it was rich and substantial, but I got the impression it might have been a bit overwhelming. Tara wasn’t much into the tuna either, but both her and Tim said the crackers were very good because they had a very slight sweetness to them.
The Roasted Mushrooms were a small bowl of a variety of mushroom. I wasn’t sure of the exact mix of mushrooms, but I detected some crimini and, perhaps, a few sliced portobello. What I loved about the mushrooms was the slightly smoky flavor on them. It really was a nice taste sensation to balance out some of the other dishes we had. Tim and Tara also enjoyed the mushrooms as well.
The Pollo Colonial was a plate of chicken pieces with a slight crispy exterior and a sweet glaze. Tim and I took a first bite of the dish and it was great. The texture was good and the glaze was perfect for the chicken. What caught us off guard was the spicy heat from the dish. It wasn’t present at first, but then it came out of nowhere and both Tim and I were wondering when the spice would plateau. It was, ultimately, a very spicy dish.
The bowl of Patates Bravas was radiating heat when it was set on the table. We each grabbed a few of the potato nuggets and let them cool on our plates. After one bite, we were hooked. They were incredibly good. The exterior was exceptionally crunchy and the insides were soft and pliable. It was such a great combination of taste and texture that they became instantly addictive and we were glad we had ordered them.
The final dish was the Pear with Goat Cheese and Almonds. A half of a pear was poached and then topped with a dollop of goat cheese and then was placed on a dish with a red wine reduction. I thought the creation was outstanding. Tim and Tara didn’t like it, but I think that had to do with how in-your-face the flavors were. The reduction was quite striking but paired very well with the cheese and fruit. If I had one complaint, I thought there was too much goat cheese for the dish. Still, I thought it was the best dish on the table.
After polishing off the last of the pear, we requested our bill. The total was $97.75. Since I had never been to a tapas restaurant, I wasn’t sure how the pricing structure was in comparison with other places. I thought the prices were rather high, and Tim and Tara assured me that the prices were on the high end for tapas. Service was okay, but could have been much better. Our server seemed to be attentive at times and not at others.
The one thing that is very clear at Sol y Sombra is that the ingredients used for the tapas are top notch. Everything was fresh and high quality. That is why we had almost no complaints about the food outside of personal tastes. I had a good time at Sol y Sombra and will return in the future.
I only wish the noise level would have been much more reserved. The conversation with my dining companions was just as important as the food.
Sol y Sombra Spanish Kitchen
20707 North Pima Road
Scottsdale, AZ 85255
Dress: Resort Casual
Hours: Tuesday through Sunday - 5 PM to Close; Sunday Brunch starting at 10:30 AM; Closed Mondays.
Notes: Valet parking available. Patio seating available.
Alcohol: Full bar service.
Additional photos can be found at www.feastinginphoenix.com
Sol y Sombra
Closed, Scottsdale, AZ 85255