Got to try BarLola for the first time the other night. The look of the place is cute, lots of sultry red lighting, with some cozy, loungey nooks in different corners and tightly spaced tables in the main rooms. We proceeded to try five small plates, which were generously sized and nice priced: more food than we could eat, plus a glass of wine, was under $50 inclusive.
But the food seems to be prepared by soomeone who has read about tapas bars but never actually been to one. For example, patatas ali-oli, a standby of tabernas in Spain (cold, garlicky potato salad), is here transformed into hot red Bliss pototaes drizzed in oodles of garlic butter. Thats not exactly terrible, but it certainly confounded my expectation.
Another dish features rolled-up strips of jamon serrano plus big wedges of Manchego on slices of bread that seemed not toasted but dehydrated: still white and hard as rocks, like the bread had been sliced the day before and left out. The odd pairing of meat and cheese and the tiredness of the jamon made for a pretty sad dish.
Then there were the croquetas de pollo: delicious, spicy, golfball-sized chicken fritters. Very nice, except for the fact that they were served on an ice-cold puddle of salsa-like tomato puree that quickly sucked the heat from croquettes. Just making the sauce room-temperature would have helped, warm even better. A potentially great dish spoiled. Empanadas de pollo were less tasty to begin with than the croquettes, and likewise not helped by a cold tomato sauce. Baffling.
Tortilla espanola was two good-sized wedges of this potato quiche-like tapas-bar standby; BarLola's was thankfully decently done, though I am not accustomed to having the green pepper on the inside.
So Im confused: the visual cues (hostess costume, décor, purported live flamenco) suggest a stab at Spanish authenticity, but the food runs from just bad (that jamon dish) to nearly-good but ruined in the execution, and not very authentic at all. Ive had many good times on their wonderful patio (mostly in its Spasso incarnation), but it was too cold to sit outside, and they dont have patio heaters.
Last shot: the cocktails poured at the bar are giant, but as at many clueless places with fancy drink lists, they do not bother to chill the glasses. This ensures that your ten-dollar potion will be quite warm by the end, yecch.
Might go back for a glass of wine on that patio come spring. Will be taking my tapas cravings to Taberna de Haro and Dali.