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Restaurants & Bars 2

Solera -- Minneapolis

Brad Ballinger | Jun 3, 200312:49 PM

I finally got to try Solera last night. For a Monday night, the restaurant was about half full at 7:00. At 9:30, when we left, it was almost empty. The bar was mostly empty at 7:00; about half full at 9:30. But it was a Monday.

First the bar. There were eight of us, and we had a drink in the bar before being seated in the restaurant. The decor is very well done, and this should eventually be a place where people will easily enjoy hanging out. The help, however, still needs to feel more comfortable. I ordered a glass of sherry (there are 30 sherries by the glass on the wine list). The bartender couldn't find it amount the bottles he was looking through. I advised that the fino sherries are likely in the refrigerator. He couldn't find it there either. He couldn't find the second one I ordered either. As he was nervously trying to find the third, I told him I'd just have a beer.

We were then seated to a table in the back. Smoking is not allowed in the restaurant (thankfully). It is permitted in the bar, however. Tables seated near the entrance from the bar into the dining room will be affected, so if you don't want to smell the smoke, ask for a table in back.

The decor in the restaurant is dark. Dark carpet, darkish wall, dark brown wood. Stainless steel tableware (pitchers, condiment dispensers, etc.).

The menu primarily consists of tapas, one column for the frias (cold) and another for caldas (hot). There are about 50 choices in all. On the back side, you will find about four salad options and two soup options (both priced similarly to the tapas). There are also four entree options and paella, all over $20.

The wine list is all Spanish, about 100 bottles, and priced quite reasonably. There are plenty of options under $25 that are great food wines. In keeping with the sherry experience, they were out of the first red wine I ordered. The wine is served in Riedel stemware - brownie points for that!

Most of us ordered several tapas, and two ordered entrees. Aside from the "snack-like" tapas (olives, almonds, etc.), the price range is from $5-$9, but most are $7 or higher. The price is not comensurate with portion size. The cuisine (aside from the paella, I would guess -- but I didn't see it) is not traditional Spanish cuisine. The gazpacho is a white gazpacho made with lots of garlic. Its more authentic ancestor, the Andalucian-style gazpacho, was nowhere to be found. Patatas Bravas are a standard item in any tapas bar in Spain. Not at Solera. Another standard, tortilla espanola, was dolled up and served warm (usually it comes room temperature). So this was nouveau/fussy Spanish tapas cuisine.

My wife and I shared a smal salad for arugula, roasted pasilla peppers, white beans, and shaved dried, salt cured tuna. It needed more tuna, but had a decent flavor. The standout among our order was the octopus ceviche. It wasn't technically ceviche, and came in slices from a terrine, but was tender and flavored very nicely. The scallops a la planche with serrano ham and saffron were greasy.

Other tapas I was able to try included deep fried calamari with aioli. The calamari was not rubbery, but it was mixed with olive halves before being dipped in batter. Why? That flavor combo didn't work at all. The veal meatballs could've been anything. The rabbit was difficult to remove from the bone, and could've been pork, chicken, whatever. The chorizo stuffed dates were sublime and my second favorite tapa. The pork ribs were tough.

Both entree orderers ordered the halbut. Call the food police. This was criminally overcooked and overly salty. If it were my order, it would've been sent back immediately. This city now gets sushi grade fish on Mondays. No excuse for abusing the halibut like that.

Desserts were very good. I ordered a trio of flans (citrus, coconut, and saffron). Great texture on all three and wonderful flavor. A poached pear trifle was also quite good. And I heard positive reactions to some steamed chocolate melt-in-your-mouth thing.

Value wise, I'd rate the quality as an average to below average value. Maybe this was an off night for the restaurant, and I'm sure I'll be back. I just won't be in a hurry to rush back.

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