Sala Rosa or Club Espagnol?
Which has better food?
My most recent visits date from more than six months ago in both cases, but I've heard nothing about major changes at either spot...
Sala Rosa is a tad more refined (but still pretty rustic) and has a more varied menu with more vegetarian options. And they have those excellent goat cheese balls with honey and caramelized onions. Portions are more generous at the Club, but the menu is somewhat more limited.
Both do a good job with basic tapas -- grilled sardines, tortilla, calamari both grilled and fried, garlic shrimp, mussels, etc. For paella, the Sala is better in my experience but isn't really outstanding either.
Other things to consider: the Club is a very large room with several TV sets; there is a relatively intimate dining area at the front, but it isn't closed off. It really *is* a social club in more than name, so you shouldn't expect a quiet meal unless you happen to be there when there's a lull. They also have flamenco night once or twice a week (Wed. and Sat., IIRC). You may also encounter a wandering musical duo at other times. I think there are now rock shows downstairs from the Club's dining room, but I'm not sure if they really disrupt diners upstairs.
Sala Rosa is quite a bit smaller but still a very casual, noisy scene with a generally younger crowd. Since there's a music venue upstairs (Sala Rossa), it can be wise to find out when there's a show, as the noise can be really disruptive. (Even sound check is apt to make the whole place rattle.)
Haven't been to Salsa Rosa, but Spanish Club is one of my fave's. I was just there last week, consistent as usual and never disappointed.
re: Sam Ottawa
Lagatta has been talking up Sala Rosa on all the vegetarian threads here on Chowhound, and I finally got a chance to try it last night. She's right that the menu is quite extensive in terms of vegetarian choices. I went with 2 friends and we ordered 4 dishes: the goat cheese with honey and carmelized onions, the fried potatoes with rosemary, the rapini with garlic, and the asparagus tortilla. I was also interested in the carrot salad and the spinach croquettes. Overall, although the atmosphere was nice the service was extremely slow (albeit friendly), and the food didn't excite me.
The goat cheese was quite a large portion, and tasted fine, but I was disappointed in the bread, and I felt like the ratio of cheese to honey was off--it certainly wasn't as good as the toast and goat cheese and honey appetizers I've had in Paris. My friends, however, seemed to really like it, enthusing about the smoothness of the cheese.
The rapini was not bitter at all, but neither was it garlicky enough, and it was a bit undersalted, and rather small for the price. The potatoes were tasty when slathered with enough mayonnaise and rosemary, but I thought they were way too dry and fluffy--they tasted like the fries I got at the cafeteria as a kid.
I've never had a spanish tortilla before, and so wasn't sure what to expect. When the tortilla finally came, I thought it looked quite beautiful. The shape was sort of like a sunken cake, and the surface was uniformly browned. Unfortunately, however, given its good looks, it tasted quite bland. It came with some diced tomatoes that didn't seem to help. Now, perhaps all spanish tortillas are bland, but it still seemed strange that we couldn't really taste the asparagus (although we could see bits of asparagus).
Overall it was a pleasant evening, but I wouldn't recommend any of the dishes or order them again, although with the help of mayonnaise everything was tasty enough that it got eaten (except the remnants of the tortilla).
I might come back on Flamenco night, but I wouldn't recommend this place as a destination for out of town vegetarians.
I'm sorry you were disappointed, as my recommendation is from 2 vegetarian friends whose opinions I value. Yes, Spanish omelettes are fairly bland, and Spanish food is much blander than Mexican.
I confess I always have the fishy things there.
Any other good recs for vegetarians, now that Ail! Ail! Ail! has closed? :(
Hey, no problem. Everyone has different tastes, and other vegetarians often have a different opinion than me (as is evident by all the rave reviews of Lola Rosa). I just figured I might as well share my review since the more info people have the better.
Regarding veggie recs, I haven't been eating out much, but I'll keep writing reviews of any place I try in the future. I would definitely still recommend Chu Chai, but I guess that's kind of obvious.
We tried Sala Rossa tonight before a show and were very pleased. But we ordered mostly meaty/seafood dishes (including a tortilla with chorizo) and I think it is easier to make vegetable dishes taste bland compared to fish or meat (unless you are talking about South Indian cuisine). We had a chance to sample the fried eggplant (lovely, but very small portion), goat cheese with honey (in contrast, the portion size is too big for two people, but we finished it anyway), sardines (best I have had in town, very minimal "sardine gut" taste), tortilla (liked it actually) and a special of merguez type meatballs (this one was my least favorite, but the companion liked it). We also saw the peeps next door devouring some really good looking calamari. Yeah it looks like what we liked are not vegetarian friendly, so I am not sure it is a good place to recommend for vegetarians; pescaterians maybe since they have a lot of fishy dishes in the menu.The wine prices were also pretty decent. But as noted, the noise from the upstairs club could be bothersome; so I would second trying the place on a non-concert night. But it is also nice to eat there and just climb a set of stairs to see a kick ass show.
Which has the best paella? I make a pretty mean one at home, but I rarely order it in restaurants as they don't often live up to my home-made one. But I need to cross-check mine against the supposedly more "authentic" ones occasionally. ;-)
Blork, I've always said the same thing. I've tried the paella at both Club Espagnol and another Spanish resto on Prince Arthur (forget the name, 1 block west of St Laurent on the south side) and I make a better one at home too (from a recipe out of LCBO's, "Food and Drink" magazine). THe paella's at both these places really were nothing special, I always stick to the tapas dishes at Club Esp and I'm never disappointed.
I did have some great Paella in Barcelona once. :)
My ranking of Montreal restaurant paellas:
1- Casa Minhota (Portuguese, but so what? No saffron, but otherwise similar to a typical Valenciana recipe. FWIW, a Spanish friend said that Minhota's was the best resto effort he'd had here.)
2 - Don Miguel (that's the place on Prince Arthur ios94 is thinking of)
3 - Sala Rosa
4 - Club Espagnol
5 - El Gitano
That said, there are quite a few places I haven't tried...
Definitively NOT Sala Rosa. Was not able to finish the meal with all the noise from club upstairs. Seems there is a show every night or so. I made a reservation by phone and nobody told me about the noise. It is sooooo loud.
The bill arrived and had a surprise. Most prices where higher than prices handwritten on the wall. Had to argue a bit to get the bill lowered. It was not just a small error, nearly all items were more expensive. Lame excuses.
So from now on I'll stick to the Club espanol SoMoR (South of Mont-Royal) and will never set foot at Sala Rosa NoMoR (north of Mont-Royal)