~Review by Chuck Bradley
I thought I’d see what all the buzz was about. I intentionally arrived early, shortly before six. I’d heard it gets busy later and often requires a wait, which is something I am loath to endure. I was promptly seated and my drink order was taken. I selected the highly recommended Red Sangria. It was delicious and surprisingly potent. I thought it had a strong hint of pomegranate but was told it contained none. The place is simply and tastefully appointed. My complaint about the acoustics of its sister establishment, La Capitale, nearby, applies here as well.
I looked over the menu and decided to be guided by the recommendations of my server, Ted. (This guy is good. More on this later.) I asked what his three favorite menu items were. Without hesitation he suggested the White Bean Stew with Chorizo, Winter Greens and Olive Oil and the Grilled Squid with Couscous, Mojo Verde, Caramelized Onions and Jalapenos. He paused and suggested Pan de Calabaza: Roasted Fall Squash and Kale on Toasted Bread with Fairview Farms Goat Cheese to add something “a little lighter”. Two ingredients were entirely new in my experience. The White Beans were huge. At first I thought they were Giant Limas. They had the flavor and texture of Navy Beans, but were the size of the end of my thumb! The Couscous consisted of spherical delicacies about the size of cooked soy beans and created a textural sensation on the tongue reminiscent of Salmon Roe.
I subjected poor Ken to quite a quiz. I learned that the beans and couscous were each special varieties. Admitting ignorance, I asked if the Squid dish was intended to be a hot or cold dish as it didn’t really satisfy either definition. Forearmed with more information than I should have given him, when I framed the question, he smiled and said: “I think it’s intended to be a warm dish.” Then he shifted my attention by asking me to rank the dishes in order of my preference. I did. He smiled and walked away. It was only then that I realized I’d been taken to the dance. I’ve been a salesman since my first awareness of self. Usually when such subtle influences are being plied upon me, I’m aware of it as it's happening! His non-answer satisfied me perfectly. The man is a master of diplomacy! This artistry alone was worth the price of the meal.
The food was all wonderful. However, I’ll admit that after quaffing my muy sabroso sangria, I was pretty easy to get along with. Although, I think the Tapas concept is better suited to two or more diners (She who must be obeyed was out of town this evening), I enjoyed it very much. They have excellent servers, chef, and wonderful food unlike any other you’re likely to find in Salem Oregon.
I’ll definitely be back with bride in tow.
Andaluz Tapas Bar
130 High ST SE
Salem, OR 97301