Monday, February 28, 2005

I love tapas - Part 2 - Tia Pol

It's been awhile since we last ate at Tia Pol, but I've been intending to write about it for awhile. This intention was reinforced the other day. I recently installed a tracker on this blog that has the neat feature of showing by what google searches people have come to see my site. On Tuesday someone googled "Tia Pol" and ended up here (from my Casa Mono post), and I felt bad that I hadn't yet put up a thorough description. So here goes...

Tia Pol is a narrow strip of a restaurant, with high stools clustered around the few small tables. They don't take reservations for parties smaller than 6 (and can't accommodate more than 8), so the first time we went we had to wait for about fifteen minutes. We ordered a pitcher of solidly good sangria, which we drank standing by a ledge on the wall. We were soon enough seated at own tiny table.

There's not a menu online anywhere that I can find, which will mean my identifications of dishes won't be menu quotes, but I'll try to reconstruct as best I can with Adam's help (his memory is freakishly accurate for these sorts of things).

They do three tapanades for an odd version of pan con tomate: one of peppers and onions, one of pureed lima beans (very similar to the lima bean puree dish we ordered on our second occasion), and olive tapanade. All are very good, especially the light lima bean puree. The bread has tomato rubbed on it like the traditional version. Fried chickpeas come out hot and explode with crunchy flavor in your mouth. Surprisingly fantastic, though not worth eating once then get cold (not that they're likely to last that long). A small dish of assorted olives did well as part of my ongoing attempt to acquire a taste for olives (Adam's making the same effort, though with greater success so far). A special of mushroom carpaccio was excellent (other reviews have raved about the specials, and while I don't unilaterally agree, this was great). Some sort of shrimp dish was very good. I don't remember the exact preparation, except that they were large, succulent shrimp that required peeling and beheading. Their deviled eggs put a different spin on a classic that I've always liked (and Adam had never tried). Perhaps we tried other things (we certainly didn't leave hungry), but I can't remember anything else right now.

On our second trip we'd made a reservation and were seated at a cozy recessed table with benches on each side and a stool at the end. When we arrived, Patrick, Amanda, Joe, Andrew, and Tim were already there, having finished at least a pitcher of sangria. Everyone ordered a few dishes and we shared (dietary restrictions aside - Adam, Tim and I don't eat meat). I ordered the fried chickpeas, and they were such a table favorite that we reordered them. The pan con tomate combination was again good. Pureed lima beans on bread with a little grating of cheese on top were a vegetarian favorite with the table (leading to another reorder). A special winter salad that included greens, avocado, beets, cheese (goat, I believe), and also some sort of citrus (grapefruit?) was good but basic...not nearly as surprising as many of their better dishes. Another special was a soup with oysters and dill was good, but again not as good as many of the menu items. Patatas bravas were perfectly crunchy, well seasoned and delicious. Absolutely fantastic! Amanda ordered a cheese platter (not that I objected!) which came with a variety of delicious cheeses and some great little condiments (though not in as large quantities as I would have liked, given how many people wanted a taste). The tortilla was excellent, as this basic tapas dish goes.

The carnivores at the table raved about a suckling pig special and reordered a lamb skewers dish.

For dessert we ordered three desserts (possibly everything on the menu?). The coke float with red wine ice cream was weird, and got mixed reactions from the table (Patrick liked it). Orange flan was good, as was some sort of cake/torte thing that I can't remember specifically (this is what happens when I wait over a month to blog!).

Two low points of the meal both involved the wine. First, a second pitcher of sangria tasted very vinegary and no one could drink it. Andrew claimed that the bottle of wine with which it was made must have been corked (and even informed of us the particular type of bacteria, but that's Andrew). However, when we complained, the waitress was nice enough about it and brought us clean glasses and another pitcher (MUCH better). Later, after we'd switched to wines by the bottle (Andrew's selections, we always leave that to him when we're out), the waitress managed to poor a glass of wine on Adam's pants. Other at the table joked that she was venting about us sending back the sangria. While she brought us white wine and seltzer and a small towel to blot it up (which, in conjunction with an immediate washing at home, amazingly worked!), she was not particularly apologetic about it, nor did she make any effort to offer him something as compensation (another dish, dessert, etc). As the wine came out, no harm done, but while the waitress was nice enough she was nothing spectacular. The food certainly more than makes up for any lacking service. As Pat and Amanda took another couple back the following week, it appears that others agreed with our suggestion.


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