Last night my boyfriend and I went to Dali, a tapas bar located near Boston, to celebrate four years together. I had been dying to try a real tapas meal for the first time (aside from the appetizer I had with Reid at Bocado), and after reading all the stellar reviews for Dali, I was sold. Everyone mentioned how wonderful of a date place it was and how amazing the food was, so it sounded like the perfect restaurant for celebrating a special occasion. So during the day yesterday, I was browsing through Dali's online menu, trying to think about which dishes I wanted to try, and by the end of the day I have to say my mouth was watering with anticipation. Since tapas tend to be pricey ($5-10 for a small portion), we decided to limit our meal to 6 dishes. After comparing notes, we decided on 6 dishes that we were both interested in trying, and off we went towards Dali!
I was able to get to Dali via public transportation, as there was a bus line that had a stop literally right outside Dali's front door. How convenient! The exterior of the restaurant was not very lavish, and actually made the place look very small (albeit quaint). I thought it was interesting that the entrance to the place was located at one corner of the restaurant, which made it a tight squeeze for patrons to get in and out of the place.
Greg and I arrived at Dali at about 8:15pm, and waited another 10 minutes or so for a table to open up. The first thing you notice as you enter the restaurant is how dimly lit it is, and then you hear the loud and lively Spanish music, and the uproarious laughter of the patrons as they wined and dined. It was definitely a place with character. All the waiters and waitresses were dressed nicely in Spanish-influenced clothing, and they spoke Spanish to one another, which was also great. When we were ready to be seated, we were taken to the back of the restaurant, where it was cozy and full of other tables, but also romantic with its soft candlelight and tiled tables. Our waiter came to take our order, and I listened as Greg used his high school Spanish skills to order all of our dishes in Spanish (this is encouraged, apparently).
We started off with a glass of Sangria each, which was nice and fruity, although I'm not terribly fond of red wine, which is the dominant flavor in Sangria. I think I liked white wine Sangria better. Next time I might try the Cava Sangria that Dali offers (I believe it's champagne-based). A small bread basket came soon after, with a bit of garlic hummus for spreading. I'm not that big on hummus myself, but I thought it went well with the bread, which was crusty on the outside, but soft and chewy on the inside (it would have made for great fondue-dipping bread).
Next came our first tapas dish: tortilla espanola, which is a cold tapas described as an egg/potato/onion omelette. In actuality, it was much more like a slice of a crust-less quiche, but with an equal ratio of eggs to potato to onion, and without cheese. I was really fond of this dish, as it reminded me of a Chinese breakfast item that I've eaten before. In any case, it was not cold, but rather just mildly warmed, and came topped with some soft tomatoes and red peppers, which went perfectly with the omelette, whose flavor was lightly salty… quite savory for something that only has eggs, potatoes, and onions in it. I also really liked the thin skin surrounding the slice, which was nicely browned and slightly crispy egg.
The second dish that came was costillas de vaca, which is beef short ribs in a Rioja wine sauce. This hot tapas is normally on the late night tapas menu, but we were surprised to find it available for dinner, and so we were definitely excited to try it. We got two big meaty pieces attached to 2 segments of rib bone, sitting in a lovely brown sauce with stewed vegetables. The beef itself was completely tender and falling off the bone, and well-marinated with a mixture whose wine flavor I could taste quite prominently. It was a great balance of salty, sweet, and tart. We also dipped our bread pieces into the wine sauce, and concluded that the sauce plus the stewed vegetables tasted kind of like beef stew, but the beef itself had that different flavor from being marinated.
After the first two dishes, the next 4 came out together, and we were tempted to try a little bit of each thing. Our second and last cold tapas dish was a patatas ali-oli, which is cubed potatoes in a homemade garlic/caper mayonnaise. The potatoes were boiled and cubed, then tossed in the described mayo dressing, then sprinkled with a lot of a green herb, which may have been dill, but I couldn't tell. The flavor of garlic was very strong in this dish, as it was a raw garlic flavor. Greg really liked it, because he found the potatoes and garlic to be refreshing. I would say this was my least favorite dish of the night (though it was by no means bad), just that it reminded me exactly of the potato salads that my mom likes to make, so it wasn't that exciting or new of a flavor to me.
Next we had vieiras al azafran, which is scallops in saffron cream. This was a simply fabulous dish, where we got 7 large scallops smothered in a fragrant seafood cream sauce that was lightly charred by a torch prior to serving. The scallops were deliciously tender, and the sauce was what made the dish so amazing. It was infused with a rich flavor that reminded me of lobster (in fact, I felt like the sauce was a thicker version of lobster bisque), but at the end of each spoonful you could taste the lovely aromatic contribution from the saffron. Just absolutely wonderful. We ate the scallops slowly, and dipped our bread into the sauce until it was all gone. Mmmm….
For our poultry dish, we ordered codorniz de castilla, which is broiled herb and garlic quail stuffed with bacon. The stuffed quail was rather small, about the size of my fist, with small legs and wings extending from it. It was de-boned except for the legs and wings, so it was easy to split up. There was bacon rolled up inside the cavity of the quail. Quail meat has a really nice smoky flavor that was definitely different from chicken but not gamey in any way. Its savory and smoky flavor made it a great pairing with the bacon, and the dish came the drippings from bird, which were great as well. And it was certainly interesting eating a tiny little quail drumstick haha.
Finally, and I saved the best for last, we got queso rebozado con miel, which was a dish of fried Spanish cheese with honey and sweet onions. This dish was amazing. You got three small round cheese nuggets about one inch in diameter each, and they were lightly breaded and fried so that the outside was crispy, yielding to a soft and smooth cheese interior. I'm not sure exactly what kind of cheese it was, but it had a flavor that was similar to goat's milk cheese, except not as strong, and it was quite creamy. But it was exactly this tart similarity to goat's milk cheese that made the cheese pair so perfectly with the sweetness of the honey and the delicate softness of the sweet caramelized onions. I was absolutely in heaven eating this dish, and I only wish I could have had a second plate of it haha. It was a great dish to finish off the meal with as well, since it serves so well as a dessert dish.