Jenny Famewhore

Thursday in the Heights: Bar Lola

Posted in Boston by Jenny Famewhore on November 17, 2009

If there are any college students still dating, a tapas bar is the perfect date spot; and a social reflection of our comparison-shopping tendencies, truncated attention spans, and a life of overwhelming choices. The tapas bar is a restaurant manifestation of the non-exclusive standard of love. Eating many little meals means you never have to commit to only one– one dish, or one lover. If the date sucks, just huff up those tiny appetizer-sized plates and beg over that check.

I find the difficulties that Frank Bruni’s hyperbolic grousing about the “death of the entree” referred to (enduring 17 bites of one thing is a luxury for a food critic) hard to justify and a wee sanctimonious when juxtaposed against the rising global food insecurity. Let’s be optimistic. There are only three meals in a day, an infinity plus one array of food and ways to make them. I would probably never get around to 1/4 of all that exists even if I were to eat something different every day. For me, tapas are the perfect way to adventurously taste everything without resorting to, say, asking Andrew to awkwardly entreat his friend who works at Late Night at BC dining to sneak over a single fry, that’s all- just one, for me. Or having to look wide-eyed and innocent at my dining companions and cautiously (in a manner that doesn’t invoke a vision of an Orphan Oliver hover-crafting-over their food) beseech, “Are you going to finish that?”

One day, I may settle into the peaceful cradle of satiety- a truce with curiosity- and find my niche, like, on a dirty bar stool in the Lower East Side of New York with my 17 Coronas and 17 sliders, but until then, I will keep looking towards that horizon, wondering what’s on the other side, and rallying for those tapas to keep coming.

Sultry Atmosphere And Tiny Bites At Boston’s Bar Lola

bar lola

Published in the November 12, 2009 Edition of the Heights

My friend and I were to have dinner one night, and she left me the exquisite burden of choosing the restaurant, along with a few footnotes: classy, but not overly extravagant; conducive to a long gossip session; and adventurous. It was like seeking the necessary characteristics in a perfect partner, but I only needed this place for a few magical hours. (I’ll let you in on a trade secret – Menupages and Chowhound is the foodie version of Craigslist.) So it was with these parameters in mind that I came upon Bar Lola, a tapas bar a short four blocks from Copley Station, on a corner of a tree-lined street flanked by colonial brownstones.

At Bar Lola, we were faced with a formidable menu spanning upwards of 40 dishes, ranging from tapas frias, or cold plates, with classics such as the Tortilla Espanola and Manchego y Serranno, and tapas calientes, or hot plates, with anything from fried calamari to sea scallops to roasted duckling to rabbit.

The breadth of the menu is also in some ways a hindrance to the quality of the food; having every item prepared fresh is an impossible feat and there are signs of the restaurant cutting corners with lack of attention to dishes; some are placed on the menu as mere fillers. The Tortilla Espanola at Bar Lola can be passed on without a second thought. What was supposed to be a classic Spanish omelet usually made with eggs, potatoes, and onion was a bland combination of the former two, and heavily lacking the flavor kick of the onion or additional spices. My taste buds almost fell asleep while eating the tortilla, but were mildly jolted back to attention at the Manchego y Serranno, or in layman’s terms, the ham and cheese on mini-toast. And by mildly, I mean, the Manchego cheese was a bit mild, but the salty smokiness of the Serranno ham on a crackling crostini held up its end.

Tortilla Espanol y Manchego y Serrano

The Calamares Rellenos was like a seafood variant of the infamous Mexican Chile Relleno. Where a green pepper gloriously stuffed with cheese and meat was supposed to be was instead a dyed-green calamari stuffed to the brim with crab meat and shrimp, of which two of these plump babies of Titan sat in its own delicious, briny juices. The selection at Bar Lola was full of these ambivalent dishes that had good intentions, but fell slightly short of reaching their full potential. This is where a nice pitcher of sangria or a bottle of wine compensates for where the food is lacking.

There are other small triumphs: the savory tomato sauce that accompanied the Croquetas de Pollo, and on the dessert menu, the Frixuelos, a crepe filled with a rich, creamy dulce de leche, served with whipped cream and a few aesthetically placed raspberries. The sangria, both red and white available, is refreshing, and contains textural bits of crunchy green apples and oranges.

The space itself commands a sultry decor of seductive red lighting and cozy nooks that seems influenced by the bold dress of a Matador and the gaudy affair of a Parisian brothel. Heavy drapery frames the passageways to different rooms, like windows to a shifting tableau. A bar to the right of the entrance way, buzzing with the noise level of playground chatter, soon gives way to a deep-maroon room with black-wire cages dangling from the ceiling, a lush red velvet couch set against one wall, and large ornate mirrors that create a spacious effect. All that is missing are the banned chain-smokers who would have produced a foggy haze to complete the spell.

Once the meal was over, we spilled out into the crisp, November night, and onto the street, where the blue fairy lights cast a glow across the deserted outdoor seating, a wistful reminder of summer days.


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