iTapas in Palo Alto - the horror of it all
Frankly it was just bad.
The menu does look good. The concept is small-plate dishes from around the world. The service and execution was horrendous. It took forever to be recognized and even longer to take our drink/dinner order. Our first tapas arrived WAY before either of us had drinks. When the first drink arrived it came with a weak apology that the other drink was being fetched from the cellar. An eternity later... my wine arrived.
We ordered 3 tapas to start: Lobster spring roll with wasabi aioli, seared scallops with sun dried tomato risotto and duck tacos with mango salsa. The lobster spring roll had virtually no lobster. The scallops tasted (and texture) was as if they had been thrown into a deep fat fryer and the duck tacos turned out to be duck nachos with greasy cold chips and so-so mango salsa. To boot, the butter that arrived with our bread came in wrappers!
Avoid this place. At least for now.
I ate at I Tapas today, and was reasonably impressed.
It's in the old Left at Albuquerque, and the only time I was at LaA I got food poisoning from shrimp and never went back. From the outside the place screams "yet another Palo Alto high concept low food expensive s*it hole". I had already written it off, but my friend likes tapas and we weren't very hungry, more needed to get out of the house (software contractor disease).
I went on a Weds night, and things were slow. Fewer than half the tables were full, although it was a cold night and it's a high ceiling. It's not very warm room, although the temperature was fine. They welcomed us even though I hadn't shaved that day, and was wearing an old tee shirt covered in cat hair.
I tapas specializes in tapas, sure, but they're closer to spanish-style than 3 seasons. They have extensive fish and some meat dishes. They walk a bit more on the wild side, with smelt, octopus ceveche, Brussels sprouts, and the like.
Me and my friend ordered hamachi-avocado ceviche, shrimp in garlic, lamb-stuffed grape leaves, crispy smelt, and yucca sticks. The ceviche was an unusual preparation, more asian, in a flat dish. Layers of hamachi and avocado, both of which were perfectly fresh. The shrimp and garlic was excellent comfort food, with their crunchy little bodies drenched in oil and garlic, perfectly cooked, and an extra twist with the addition of a few roasted hot peppers (chinese-style). The yucca sticks were kind of fun, but nothing to write home about - like medium-cut french fries, slightly sweet with an unusual texture. The smelt were close to batter-dipped, somehow reminiscent of the gulf coast and quite good - with a delicate little lime dipping sauce that shouldn't have worked but did. Another winner. The lamb-stuffed leaves were OK, with a nice roasted exterior to the package, and might have sparkled with an inventive sauce - that smoked taste was begging to be complimented.
They have an entire "wine flight" menu (10 flights on offer, 5 red, 5 white), and we chose a red flight and a white flight. 3 2oz glasses for about $15 total, which is quite expensive by volume, but reasonable in terms of fun. I really liked the grenache, having had it in blends before, but never an entire wine. They print a little card and lay it with the wine glasses, which is slightly hokey but nicely effective. Another winner.
The orders came out timed well. Warm bread first (a reasonable very white french bread, but petite, and WARM is good on a cold night). Yes, the butter came in wrappers - real butter, nicely softened - it was good. The wine hit almost immediately after ordering, with the first two plates next, and they clearly waited until we finished that (we lingered over the sauce of the shrimp, and got extra bread) before firing the next two, and the lamb to wrap.
We didn't try the bar, but it had the feel of being good. I'm very picky about my bars.
I liked the desert menu (I like the guts of a no-chocolate menu, and they had sorbets and a cheese selection, which we didn't order). We got a pumpkin cheesecake, which was tasty but not exceptional. The after-dinner alcohol menu was better than some, but not extensive. Their only vintage port was a '91 dows.
With tax and tip, we just barely broke $100 - which felt about right, quality and quantity-wise.
I thought the food was far better than 3 seasons (which I eat at every month or so), primarily because it's just wider and more interesting. I look forward to trying the bar, which always looks promising at 3 seasons by the bartenders don't actually know what they're doing - I had to walk them through a caiphirinia a few months ago.
I don't know if nutmeg had a bad night, or I had a good night, or they can't handle a crowd, or I've got better ordering 6th sense (mine is pretty good - I didn't even consider the lobster rolls - not right for that joint). A third opinion is needed.
I will be back.
I don't care about the butter, but the food sounds so bad I have to ask, did you complain "Excuse me, but there is no lobster in this so-called lobster roll" or tell them to take it away and bring something else? Sometimes if it is just so very bad I have been forced to do that. There is no excuse, ever, to actually swallow bad food, no? If I actually said nothing and paid, I would not have been able to live with myself