Lisa doesn’t love tapas. In various conversations, Lisa’s explained that when you eat tapas (small appetizer portions of food) you spend lots of money and you go away hungry. And so Tia Pol, the fairly new tapas bar on 10th avenue–part of the 10th ave. restaurant boom–didn’t seem like an obvious choice for dinner with Lisa. But last night she was feeling free-spirited and she said, “I can eat anything, really” and I said, “Ok, let’s go to Tia Pol.”
Amanda Hesser wrote about Tia Pol a few weeks ago in The New York Times Magazine section. (I can’t find the article online so I can’t link to it.) She basically praised Tia Pol for its similarity to the tapas bars you’d find in Spain. I’ve never eaten tapas in Spain, so I can’t comment on that, but Lisa and I were very excited to try something new and exotic.
And new and exotic is what we had. Upon arrival, they sat as at a table in the back—a two-top with stools, like the kind you’d see at a bar. Which makes sense because this is a tapas bar. The waitress helped us steer through the menu. She raved over the blistered green peppers and so we ordered those. And soon Lisa was raving too.
After a few peppers Lisa gushed, “Oh my God—I never want to stop eating these.”
They were really addictive. Not spicy, as you might expect. Just sweet and salty and crunchy and chewy and wet. These peppers were already the highlight of the meal!
Me being a meat eater, I wanted to try some of their signature meat dishes. The waitress recommended chorizo and bittersweet chocolate on toast. I know, I know–that sounds gross. Sausage and chocolate? Well here it is, with some saffron threads on top:
So this wasn’t gross in anyway, but it wasn’t a sublime revelation either. It tasted like what you’d expect chocolate and chorizo to taste like. My complaint is that everything was a down note: the chorizo had no heat and so it was like eating leathery meat and dark bitter chocolate. Sort of like a wrestling match between an old man and a cat with no legs. Or something.
Lisa had this potato and onion omelet that came with a side of what we assumed was aioli. (Sorry this one’s blurry.)
The omelet wasn’t outrageously special, but Lisa was glad she had ordered it. “Otherwise,” she said, “I wouldn’t have been full.” And if you remember: one of Lisa’s issues with tapas is that they don’t get her full.
My other meat dish was lamb:
And this was perfectly succulent and juicy and flavorful. Plus the bread, as you can see, caught all the drippings and made for a nice post-lamb afterthought.
More bread came with Lisa’s bread tomato dish. I forget what it’s called. But it’s two slices of bread, drizzled with olive oil and rubbed with tomato and served with three dips: olive tapenade, fava bean spread, and roasted red peppers.
This was enjoyable but not transcendent. And I think that describes our overall experience: everything was fine and pleasant, but we weren’t blown away. Even the dessert didn’t knock us off our socks:
That’s an almond tart thingie with dulce de leche and chocolate ice cream. It was very nice but small for what it cost and not particularly mind-boggling.
On the walk home, Lisa said she was really happy with our dinner in terms of food consumed–“That was the perfect amount of food,” she said–but felt it cost way more than it was worth. I was less troubled by the pricetag (and it was about $30 each with drinks) and I was glad to have tried weird things like chocolate and sausage and blasted green peppers. And though, peppers aside, nothing really blew me away, I’d be more than happy to give it another chance.
And that’s how we felt about Tia Pol.