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molto e

Lola Tapas - Phoenix

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Lola Tapas

(602) 265-4519

800 E Camelback Rd

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Menu

Walking into Lola Tapas from Camelback Road, I am instantly transported back to San Sebastian, Spain, and in particular to Calle 31 de Agosto, the famous street of tapas bars. Tapas restaurants have always held a special place in my heart, with my early favorites being Café Iberico and Café Ba-Ba-Reeba in downtown Chicago.

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Digging in at Lola

As I reflect upon my life (which is quickly becoming a between-meal pastime for me), I realize that I have always had an affinity for the Spanish lifestyle. I’m enamored with the tapas concept and the idea of being able to taste a myriad of dishes during a single meal while enjoying the simple pleasure of pitchers of Sangria throughout.

I honed my siesta skills while I was matriculating at one of the desert’s finer institutions, with a mandatory rest in the afternoon following lunch (typically a bocadillo from either the Sausage Deli or Baggins). After my “work” for the day was done, my fraternity brothers and I would set out for our favorite bars to indulge in nibbles and drinks, not mindful that we were in fact practicing our own version of the “tapas” ritual.

Eventually I found my way to Spain and quickly assimilated the Spanish lifestyle. I awoke to café con leche and postres, joined the throngs of people at lunchtime wandering along the rows of tapas bars offering legs of jamon from the Pata Negra pig hanging from the ceiling, partook of the obligatory afternoon siesta and then rejoined the crowd in the evening to once again perform the tapas walk.

Although I only spent a brief portion of my life in Spain, I vividly remember the general feeling of conviviality among the patrons when entering a tapas bar. Everyone gathers around the barra, where all the tapas are laid out on platters and you slide back and forth amidst the crowd serving yourself whatever catches your eye. I have no idea how they keep track of what a bar full of people is eating but somehow they manage to do so.

That same feeling of conviviality exists the moment you walk into Lola Tapas. While living in Spain, co-owner/chefs Felicia and Daniel Ruiz Wayne, immersed themselves in Spanish culture and were able to bring back their fair share of the Spanish kinetic energy that fills the room.

They learned the art of Spanish cuisine by going from tapas bar to tapas bar recording everything in a notebook and from the landlord of the flat they rented for six months. Felicia recalls, “She was a little grandma, a beautiful little woman… she lived on the bottom and we lived on the top. She would bring us tomatoes, figs and peppers that she grew and I would give her Mexican food and she had never seen Mexican food and we had this great exchange but I learned Spanish food and she learned Mexican food, it was a beautiful experience.”

Felicia explains, “The culture in Spain is beautiful. That is why we made the restaurant with communal seating, because in Spain no one eats there alone. Even if you are a single person, you eat with someone, which is something that we brought back with us. You eat, you drink, you are just with people—that sense of community—and when we opened the restaurant, that was the main focal point for us.”

This is a restaurant where the communal aspect makes the experience. Lola Tapas is actually the perfect first-date restaurant because if you fear your conversation is starting to lull, you can always chat up your neighbors about what they are ordering. Felicia and Daniel love it when they see patrons exchanging tapas and having fun together over their “Modern Gypsy Food.”

Felicia and Daniel had no restaurant experience before opening Lola Tapas but they spent 10 years working together behind the counter of their coffee shop, Lux. They also hosted many tapas parties with refined versions of the dishes they learned while living in Spain.

Lola’s Tapas is my go-to restaurant with a group because the food is always tasty and reasonable plus the vibe of the room is great. My most favorite Lola Tapas experiences are when a group of friends and I have my version of a food orgy: ordering everything on the menu. The first thing that we do is order is a pitcher of Sangria, which has the perfect balance between sweetness and tartness. While I deliberate over what to order, I nibble on a bowl of the house-marinated olives to help me focus.

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Sangria and Tapas...does not get much better than that

The progression of the delectable dishes at Lola starts with the cold tapas. In Spain, plates of jamon, the Spanish equivalent to Italian prosciutto, are an integral part of every tapas meal and the Lola experience is no exception to the rule. Lola serves a plate of Jamon Serrano with Riserva Manchego cheese, Mahon Cheese, Marcona almonds and medjool dates. This plate is a harmony of sweet, salty and crunchy. The Tortilla de Patatas is a dish that is prevalent on tapas menus and at Lola; the question is not whether to order it, but how many to order. This simple marriage of egg, potato, onion and roasted pepper is what comfort food is all about. At Lola, the Tortilla de Patatas is served cold with a smear of saffron mayonesa and a bite of caper berry creating a real palate pleaser.

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Jamon Serrano con queso

Spanish cured ham served with "Riserva" Manchego and Mahon cheese, Marona almonds and Medjool dates

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Tortilla de Patatas

potato tortilla made with onions and roasted red peppers served with saffron mayonesa and caper berries

Once we have had our fill of the cold tapas, we move on to the warm offerings. One of my favorite menu items (and the one plate that never leaves the table with a remaining morsel) is the spicy Andalusian-style chickpeas and spinach with garlic, bread crumbs, chile flakes and sherry vinegar. Another one of my favorite dishes at Lola is the Spanish-derived roasted asparagus with pistachios and smoked paprika dressing. There is also a daily special and recently I enjoyed skewers of gambas and chorizo with Moorish spices and olives. A winning combination is always an order of the champinones en salsa verde, which are Crimini mushrooms in a white wine parsley sauce with garlic. We paired the mushrooms with the hand-cut organic filet mignon topped with the butter of the day (recently it was Moorish butter with chile flakes, smoked paprika and cumin).

Desserts change weekly with a recent highlight being an espresso flan with a vanilla bean caramel.

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Garbanzos con Espinachas a la Andaluza

spicy Andalucian style chickpeas and spinach

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skewers of gambas and chorizo with Moorish spices and olives

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Esparragos con Pistachos

roasted asparagus and pistachios with smoked paprika dressing

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Grilled Filet Mignon with spiced butter

hand-cut organic filet mignon grilled and served with the butter of the day

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Champinones en Salsa Verde

crimini mushrooms in white wine sauce

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espresso flan with a vanilla bean caramel

Until you are able to find your way to Spain, let Lola Tapas serve as your local taste of the Spanish lifestyle. Look for a patio to be built in the very near future between the restaurant and the Al Moro flamenco dance studio next door (where you can work off dinner). Then the good times may just spill right onto Camelback Road.


Eliot Wexler aka "Molto E"

MoltoE@restaurantnoca.com

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Lola has started opening Monday thru Saturday from 7 am - Noon as a coffee bar. Daniel and Felicia were the original owners of Lux Coffee so they know their beans :laugh: and roast them all "in-house"

Print out this coupon and bring it in for a free drink to check out the morning offerings that include pastries and soon I hope that tortilla de patatas :wink:

lola coupon


Edited by molto e (log)

Eliot Wexler aka "Molto E"

MoltoE@restaurantnoca.com

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