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Dali - bang for buck, and must try's

It's a friend's birthday and we are having a group dinner at Dali, as per her request.

I've read a lot of mixed review on this place, some good and some bad, but one consistent theme seems to be that portions do not justify prices. I'd love some guidance on ordering - specifically, which dishes on the tapas menu are more substantial for their price and which are skimpy. I'd also love to know favorites, what on the menu should not be missed.

Please don't suggest another restaurant - Dali is her pick and it's not my place to suggest otherwise. I'd simply like some tips on ordering tasty food that will fill us up without breaking the bank.

Thanks!

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  1. I think you can have a great time at Dali, and although the place has its detractors, it is deservedly popular. Kind of hard to judge on the size vs. price of the tapas - you might want to ask the waiter if you have something in mind and want to know if it's on the large or small side. In my experience most of the dishes are around the same size so if you want to avoid spending too much, go for most of the more affordable options and splurge on a couple of more expensive ones :-)

    1. Tomato and goat cheese with bread, the duck breast and the pork tenderloin are all pretty significant, and delicious. The grilled prawns vary in size, but are often pretty huge. Order those four, and you'll be stuffed. Split them with a friend, and sop up all the sauces with the bread, and you'll still be good.

      I love Dali.

      1. I haven't been to Dali, but like Tapeo very much. I believe the menus are the same/similar? We get olives, the garlic shrimp, pork with blue goat cheese (so good), the tomato/goat cheese, and one "new to us" item (none of which has made the rotation). This is more than enough for 2--we usually can't finish them all. I don't remember the prices, but the 5 tapas with a bottle of wine has always been under $100.

        1. I generally order 3-5 tapas per person. I prefer to taste a passel of tapas here to ordering any of the short list of platos principales (traditional-sized entrees) like fish in salt, paella, or piedra (hot stone grill), though they're pretty good, too.

          Skip the white asparagus (it's canned) and the patatas bravas (ordinary fried potatoes). Get a mix of hot and cold, and don't ignore the simpler ones, which are often lovely, like piemientos asados (roasted red peppers), patatas ali-oli (garlicky potato salad), and queso de cabra montañes (a creamy goat cheese in a red sauce, superb), gambas al ajillo (garlicky shrimp),

          I like the sangria a lot here, but it's gotten expensive. The wine list is all-Spanish and features a lot of bargains. A porrón of Cava is also fun if you're celebrating, basically a pitcher of sparkling wine that you drink from communally, like a Bota bag.

          1 Reply
          1. re: MC Slim JB

            I agree with what MC has said - go with tapas, and if you're thinking of sharing one platos principales, get the seafood paella. It's chock-full of seafood, and whoever is now preparing the paella (as compared to about 5 years ago) is doing a great job.

            Favorite tapas - large grilled prawns in their shell (5 to a plate), roast duck with berry sauce, pork tenderloin with Cabrales cheese and portobello mushrooms, tortilla espanola, baked goat cheese with tomato and basil, scallops in saffron cream, and the fried Spanish cheese with honey and caramelized onion (this last one is almost like a dessert!).

            Since you said you have a group, order 1 tapa per person for the first round of tapas (don't place your order for everything at once - you have PLENTY of time at this restaurant - they will not attempt to move you out to turn the table). Share everything - it's great getting little tastes of things - and if you REALLY want more of a certain tapa, you can order it next go-round! You can keep one menu, and then order more when you're ready. As MC said - excellent sangria - but it goes down very well, and the large pitchers can add up (but it's WAY cheaper than ordering by the glass!)

            Above all - enjoy the atmosphere. I personally detest the waitstaff singing happy birthday, and the whole kissing the frog candlestick (and I know a lot of the waitstaff dislikes it as well!) but it's part of the schtick there. If you don't think your friend will like the attention, don't tell the host/ess or waitstaff it's a birthday celebration. :-)

            I go here at least once every couple of weeks - you can be as tired as all get-out, but going here definitely recharges the batteries and puts you in a good mood!

          2. I go to Dali pretty much once a week to recharge, and I've had the menu several times over. I agree with Snackers that most things are about the same size, and with zebedee on the prawn-size. Disclaimer: I don't eat much shellfish, but I specifically suggest Dali to non-foodies because it gives folks the chance to try game without risking your entire dinner. Tapas are of course the way to go, which is too bad because two of the entrees, the Pescado a la Sal and the Lomo de Buey, are lovely (although the salt-dome fish is doable at home).

            BIG-ish:
            the cold Ensalada Mixta
            Pimiento del Piquillo, a big pepper stuffed with shrimpy goodness. (not a favorite of mine, though)
            Pato Braseado - the duck, which is a favorite of several staff. Ask for the bigger cut.
            Lomito al Cabrales - the aforementioned pork loin with blue cheese... yum!
            Chorizo a la Plancha - chorizo. yum! everyone gets a bite.
            for the Quail, Rabbit, Trout, Short Rib and Pheasant, there's a bite for everyone, but one person should take charge and cut it up.

            SMALL-ish yet extra yummy, and with filling saturated fat:
            Solomillo en Tostada - two pieces of toast with beef and a red pepper.
            Jamon Serrano - everyone only gets one piece, but it's serrano ham!
            Queso Rebozado con Miel - my favorite item on the menu. I've tried to duplicate this at home... it's ridiculous. it's three pieces of fried cheese so it's only six bites if you stretch it, but I had to at least mention it.

            I disrecommend:
            Sopa de Ajo - it's fine, but hard to pass around with a group.
            Queso de Cabra Montanes - meh. It's OK, but it's a safety choice for the nervous.
            Bunuelos de Verdura - I don't know why these are still on the menu, but they're small and yucky.

            Several of this month's specials are good, or at least curious. I like this month's lamb/sweetpotato pie, the angler fish is very flavorful (if small), and the spinach flan is an oddity.

            Although I order them often, I'm not a huge fan of any of their desserts. Nonetheless, the Tarta de Chocolates and the Tarta de Santiago are the biggest; the chocolates, while lovely, are five bites and pricey.

            You Have Been Warned: if they find out it's your friend's birthday, they'll sing loudly, use the bubble-gun, flash the lights, and make her kiss the frog. So if your friend is shy, stay on the quiet side.

            6 Replies
            1. re: enhF94

              LOL! I like your warning about the birthday celebration way better than my warning. :-) And I agree with you on the Queso Rebozado con Miel and the special of lamb & sweet potato pie - both are excellent!

              1. re: LindaWhit

                Thanks! It took me so long to write the thing that several people replied while I was writing, so I repeated information. Nonetheless, the Queso Rebozado conquers all!

                I was there last night, as it happens, and had a new sherry - Alvear's "Pedro Ximenez de Anada" (The n in anada is an ~ "enye," but I don't know how to type that) which is worth mentioning as an oddity. It's ridiculously thick and syrupy sweet, like honey in a glass. There was sugar crystallizing in the bottom of the bottle, it's so sweet, but it had a fine apple honey walnut ripe-fruit flavor. They're trying to figure out how to sell it (it's not an easy-drinkin' sherry) but it's available.

                1. re: enhF94

                  I love the Pedro Ximénez style of sherry, though I don't think I've tried the de Añada version; in online pictures, it appears a little lighter in color than most PXes, looking more rosy and less like molasses.

                  Dalí should consider serving it over vanilla ice cream, a common serving option in Andalusia, and something I often enjoy at home.

                  1. re: enhF94

                    You can type that by holding down your ALT key and typing 0241 on your number keypad: ñ. All the European accented characters (as well as things like the Pound and Euro signs) are available by using ALT plus a four-digit code. I won't go into excessive details, this is not the appropriate forum, but suffice it to say they're all in the extended ASCII character set.

                    Of particular relevance to this forum is ALT + 0176, which produces the degree character: °

                    1. re: BobB

                      Can't you just type alt then the letter you want it on? Like ñ? At least on a Mac. Works for umlauts too. ü

                      1. re: Joanie

                        Doesn't work in the Windows world. Besides, what do you do with letters that have multiple accent options, like this? ò ó ô õ ö ø

                        There are other possible workarounds depending on what programs you have installed, but this trick goes back to DOS days and is pretty near infallible on any Windows-based machine. One thing I forgot to mention: you have to have Num Lock turned on (which it usually is by default).

              2. Just back from the Birthday Dinner. We saw the singing, bubbles, and flashing lights on the way in, and despite my encouragement, the birthday girl kept mum. No fuss over her.

                My take on the food? Everything was fine. I think people expecting something innovative or amazing will be disappointed, theses are old-school tapas and nothing too nuevo. We liked most everything, a few were really good, nothing worth raving about but a nice friendly environment and some yummy eats.

                We ordered 2 tapas per person and did ok with that. The bill, tip included was $20 ea - we didnt order booze, since a few in the group don't drink. For that price, a nice evening out. Some people said they were full, I wouldnt say that myself, but I was an Ok amount of food, considering that I had a late lunch and that we went out for ice cream afterwards.

                Things we really liked: The Queso Rebozado con Miel, basically three delicious fried cheese patties in a honey/onion marmalade, soo good. The Garlicy Chicken, great flavor, very simple but excellent. The Lomito al Cabrales, a few thing slices of pork loin (a little overcooked, I thought) drowning in a delicious garlicy blue cheese sauce with bits of portabello cooked to taste like cepes.

                Just OK: The Pato Braseado - duck in a berry sauce. The sauce was great but the duck was a bit dry and just at room temperature. The Patatas Bravas - despite what someone else said about being "just fried potatoes", these were fine. Nothing to write home about, but a good choice as a cheap tapa that tasted fine and filled you up. Yummy sauces.

                Not so great: Croquetas de Pollo - chicken croquettes, mushy and not much flavor. The Alcachofas Salteadas - an artichoke dish that tasted like canned artichoked topped with breadcrumbs and warmed in a broiler. The Bunuelos de Verdura - little veggie fritters. The person who ordered them had had them before and liked them, but I was not very impressed.

                We ordered a few others, nothing I am particularly remembering right now.

                Anyhow, like I said, everything was fine, some things quite good. If you were really hungry, and ordering 3-5 tapas each as well as drinks, It could be quite an expensive meal, and frankly I dont think the food justifies the price. But if you are not starving, or are visiting a few spots over the course of a night, its a nice place to stop in for a few tapas and a glass of wine. Especially with a large group, so you can taste a lot of different dishes. And, if you like lots of attention on your birthday, their singing / bubbles / flashing lights schtick was perhaps one of the sweetest, most heartfelt, and most over the top I have seen.

                1. Dali is one of my favorite restaurants anywhere...I have written letters to Gourmet and Bon Appetit trying to get the recipes for Saffron battered shrimp with mojo sauce, and the Pork tenderloin with Cabrales. The Duck with berry sauce, Stuffed piquillo peppers, and the garlic chicken are great (and a decent portion). The chicken croquettes are tasty but I am not as crazy about the sauce. I usually get and entire order of shrimp for myself (4 pieces). For a group of 4, we will usually order the Mar y muntanya or a paella to share, then about 8 tapas.

                  1. im glad you went to dali! i find that it is a destination for the experience. its like the atmosphere is the tastiest dish youll find, followed by the sangria and then the special tapas. even after nyc, paris, munich, sf, la etc... it can hold its own as unique. the servers dance and the owner sings (sometimes BEFORE midnight) its a stage in the middle of som.camb! i hope you go back someday and languish a long evening away in the main dining room :)

                    1. Anyone know if the baby eels tapa Dali serves is the same as the ones featured in the final meal of Top Chef? Not the preparation (completely different), but the eels themselves.

                      I really like them at Dali, but the price is a bit off-putting. Still, I suck it up. (The price and the eels.)

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: Bostonbob3

                        Mario stopped carrying the eels several years ago, as they were too expensive to import....and at $28 / tapa, they were way too expensive to eat! By accident, a group of friends and I once ordered two of them - we COMPLETELY didn't see the "2" in front of that "8" in $28.00. Ouch. :-/

                        1. re: LindaWhit

                          Sorry to see them go, but certainly NOT sorry to see that "2" and "8" exit the menu.

                          BTW, he stopped carrying them "several years ago"? Really? I haven't been in a couple of years, but has it really been that long?

                          1. re: Bostonbob3

                            The group I was with had a friend who was a first-time visitor to Dali, and he was the one who encouraged us to try the eels. I believe I first met him about 3 years ago, and I think Mario had taken them off the menu by the next time he visited a year later - so maybe 2 years ago? Let's use "a couple of years ago" vs. "several years ago." :-)

                          2. re: LindaWhit

                            Mmm, anguillas! Love those little guys, but have never tried them outside Iberia.

                        2. I'm sorry I didn't get here in time to recommend the rabbit. It is my favorite tapa in boston.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: tamerlanenj

                            Mmmm, one of my favs, too. But then again, I'm a rabbit freak.