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Taberna de Haro - Great atmosphere, horrible food.

phipsi102 Mar 9, 2010 07:18 AM

I'm giving Taberna de Haro 2 stars- 1 for the terrific ambiance, and 1 for the expansive and reasonably priced Spanish wine list. However, the bottom line is this is a restaurant, and I went there to eat, and the food was not only not authentic, but NOT EVEN GOOD! As background, I have spent 2 weeks in Spain in the Basque region and in Madrid. For fairly authentic Tapas in the Boston area, the only places I have really enjoyed are Dali and Estragon. I LOVE Toro, but it's all about the food being so delicious, not authentic, and that's ok!

Taberna de Haro looks and feels fabulous, service was friendly, although one server with no host no runner and no busser and about 12-15 tabels is a recipe for less-than-attentive service, I don't care who you are!

Ordered Jamon Iberico special, sauteed mushrooms, goat cheese on toast, and galician-style octopus. The ham was $10.75 for 6 1.5" square slices, which were DRY and not sliced very thinly. It was especially irritating because the couple next to us had ordered the jamon serrano, and their plate for $13.75. was a huge plate of beautiful, thinly-sliced, marbled ham. The sauteed mushrooms were undercooked, garlicky(good thing) and completely lacking any other seasoning. The goat cheese appeared to be one big chunk laid on a piece of baguette and placed in a broiler for a minute. the Octopus dish was disgusting- some pieces overcooked, others under, some rubbery, some mushy, and lots of them were stuck to the plate as if they too had been in a broiler for some reason. We downed our wine and paid and ran out the door, terrified to try anything else on the menu.

Went somewhere else to eat another dinner.

Bottom line: I would never go back because I don't think they deserve my money for any reason, but I suppose if you were looking for a romantic place to have a great reasonable bottle of spanish wine with a date (no food!) you'd probably enjoy it.

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Taberna De Haro
999 Beacon St, Brookline, MA 02446

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  1. BobB RE: phipsi102 Mar 9, 2010 08:00 AM

    Sounds like you had an unusually unpleasant experience. While there is no good excuse for that, I have to say that in many visits over the course of several years I've found it to be the most consistently enjoyable Spanish restaurant in the area (although I haven't yet had a chance to try Estragon). Maybe the chef was having an off night (or was out sick), maybe you just ordered the wrong dishes, but this is really not typical for them.

    As to the authenticity question - I've spent quite a lot of time in Spain over the years (I'm in international business and have been involved in some fairly major projects there requiring frequent visits) and have usually been taken out by local colleagues to their own favorite places, not tourist restaurants. Taberna de Haro is the ONLY restaurant I've been to in the Boston area (and I've been to pretty much all of them, except Estragon) that evokes my sense memories of the time I've spent there.

    1 Reply
    1. re: BobB
      meaganl RE: BobB Mar 9, 2010 11:37 AM

      Just a quick reply to say that I wholeheartedly agree with BobB. Granted, I haven't visited Taberna de Haro in the past couple of years but I used to go fairly frequently when I lived in Brookline.

      I have also spent a good bit of time in Spain and I thought that the food was delicious and the entire experience was the most authentic out of all the tapas places in the Boston area at the time (this was before Estragon).

    2. C. Hamster RE: phipsi102 Mar 9, 2010 11:40 AM

      Wow!

      I have never had anything but consistently delicious food there.

      1 Reply
      1. re: C. Hamster
        justbeingpolite RE: C. Hamster Mar 9, 2010 12:16 PM

        I've got to agree with those who say great food, great atmosphere, great service. Sorry you had a bad experience, perhaps based on many good reviews here and your one bad one, they deserve another shot?

      2. t
        tamerlanenj RE: phipsi102 Mar 9, 2010 12:17 PM

        I have always enjoyed the food at Taberna, though of course I have been served some misses over the years. The one thing that always bugged me was the terrible service: there used to be one waitress who was literally hostile!

        Still the best gambas al ajillo in the city for my money.

        4 Replies
        1. re: tamerlanenj
          MC Slim JB RE: tamerlanenj Mar 9, 2010 01:29 PM

          I also remember and dreaded being served by Ms. Frowny Face. Otherwise, aces all around there in my experience, too.

          http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

          1. re: MC Slim JB
            pocketgarden RE: MC Slim JB Mar 9, 2010 02:07 PM

            I have also had only positive experiences here. my first as a culinary student at BU, our class spent an afternoon in the kitchen with Deborah ( i believe that is her name?) she explained the wine list, many of the dishes and their origins and we eventually cooked and sat down to a meal of braised quail with fried garlic and a vegetable terrine of eggplant, peppers, onions, etc all sauteed in copious amounts of good quality spanish olive oil. yum. that was 2 + years ago but i recently returned for a birthday dinner. Six of us on a busy weeknight and the service was attentive, wine selection impressive and all the food delicious, especially everything with potatoes, the shrimp in garlic and the cod fritters. but really all scrumptious. I must say I had a negative experience at estragon. The place was EMPTY the server was sweet but a bit spacy and the food was just not memorable and across the board underseasoned and overpriced.

            1. re: pocketgarden
              MC Slim JB RE: pocketgarden Mar 10, 2010 09:46 AM

              I wonder, pocketgarden: was your Estragon experience recent? I ask because it opened with a different chef: the owner has since taken over the kitchen, and I think the food is much better (generally excellent, in my view) and certainly more traditional with him at the helm.

              http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

              1. re: MC Slim JB
                pocketgarden RE: MC Slim JB Mar 11, 2010 08:45 AM

                this was a few months back. just before the hoildays i believe. will have to give it a second try!

        2. w
          westside1izzy RE: phipsi102 Mar 9, 2010 06:18 PM

          I have been several times and once was served a dish by the chef that wasn't on the menu an it was delicious. As for Estragon, I had terrible food there. They owners were once married and now they each have their own places. Seems the lady beat out the man. I recommend Teberna de Haro and wish they were open for brunch.

          1. phipsi102 RE: phipsi102 Mar 9, 2010 08:54 PM

            Has anyone had the specific dishes that I had? Curious to know whether it was a one-time thing, or if they are simply not good at cooking/preparing certain items . . .

            Nevertheless, I must say, a good restaurant with a good chef executes the food consistently no matter what time or who is in the kitchen- a good chef is not only an excellent cook, but an excellent teacher and manager as well. For me to feel like I can recommend and go to a place, I need to feel confident that they will deliver consistently.

            7 Replies
            1. re: phipsi102
              BobB RE: phipsi102 Mar 10, 2010 06:32 AM

              Not those specific dishes, that I can remember. I have had well-prepared octopus there at least once, though I don't recall exactly how it was done. Might have been Galician-style. I won't say the chef is perfect - once I did get served a house pate that was inedibly salty, and when I mentioned it to Deborah (the owner) she apologized and took it off the bill. But she should never have served it at all.

              Still, they usually get most things right. I especially love their favas con jamon, a deliciously simple dish of fava beans cooked with olive oil, slivered garlic, and bits of serrano ham. I also love that they offer a plato matrimonio, a simple arrangement of fresh-marinated and salt-cured anchovies. It's not haute cuisine but to me it's quintessentially Spanish, as it's one of the first dishes that my local colleagues insisted I try when I started spending time in Madrid. And unless someone else has added it to their menu recently, this is the only place I know of in Boston where you can get it.

              1. re: mtm7654
                Alcachofa RE: mtm7654 Mar 10, 2010 09:40 AM

                I've only had good experiences at TdH. But, I don't blame phipsi for not going back. If the experience was really as bad as he thought, it isn't worth the "opportunity cost" to take that risk again when you could try somewhere else (unless he goes out to eat like 5 nights a week).

                Still, the fact he's equating Dali and Estragon is confusing to me.

                1. re: Alcachofa
                  phipsi102 RE: Alcachofa Mar 10, 2010 07:00 PM

                  Allow me to be more specific: Dali to me feels a little over the top trying to be Spanish in ambiance, but festive nonetheless, and the food I've had there has always been tasty, and mostly true to what I've had in Spain. Service has always been friendly as well, if not extraordinarily professional. Always a good experience.

                  Estragon's ambiance to me is like a Boston fancy-fied version of a downtown Madrid upscale restaurant- feels swanky with a big touch of Spain in it. The service (disclaimer: I've always sat at the bar) has always been excellent and professional, and the food delicious and frequently on the money with dishes I've had in Spain. Once again, always a good experience. As a bonus, the Las Ventas shop attached to Estragon has many Spanish products that are difficult/impossible to find anywhere else. The owner Julio happens to be around frequently and quite friendly as well, which never hurts.

                2. re: jvish
                  m
                  madoc RE: jvish Mar 10, 2010 08:48 AM

                  I think the OP was making an honest assessment----I live in the neighborhood and have enjoyed taberna de haro for years, beginning with julio's days-----however 2 weeks ago I had an identical exoerience with the mushrooms and with the goat cheese as described by the OP----deborah was not in the house that night----I hope a change in chefs is not at the core of this problem----I also agree with the OP that consistency is an important feature of a good restaurant.

                  1. re: madoc
                    BobB RE: madoc Mar 10, 2010 10:59 AM

                    True, consistency is important. My wife and I will be dining there tonight (hooray for the fact that they're finally bookable on Open Table!) and I'll report back.

                    1. re: BobB
                      phipsi102 RE: BobB Mar 10, 2010 06:53 PM

                      Excellent, please do let us know how it goes- Thanks BobB!

                      1. re: phipsi102
                        BobB RE: phipsi102 Mar 11, 2010 06:00 AM

                        Very enjoyable dinner. We were greeted by Deborah, and shown to our table, which was just being cleared. The place was about 90% full.

                        We started with a special of the day, grilled razor clams. The portion was four long clams, big, meaty and tasty, simply prepared with lemon and parsley.

                        Then we had our favorite, habas con jamon, which I incorrectly described above as favas with ham - in fact it's lima beans, hearty, filling and delicious as usual. With that we had albondigas de bacalao. This I hadn't had before - since I'm familiar with the term albondigas meaning meatballs, I was expecting a dense salt cod version. What we got were much closer to typical Spanish croquetas - five good-sized balls of a surprisingly light-textured, mild tasting mix of mashed potatoes and cod, deep-fried to a pale golden brown, not at all greasy, served with an herbed mayonnaise. Pleasant but not something I'd go out of my way to order again, I was hoping for a stronger salt cod flavor.

                        For our fourth dish we had ordered the pate de casera, a game bird pate. The waiter arrived with a plate that was obviously not that. A moment's discussion revealed that he thought we had ordered pato (duck) not pate (I had wondered why a pre-made item like pate was the last to arrive). He started to take it away but it looked so good we asked him to leave it instead of the pate.

                        It was great - a pan-seared duck breast cooked to the rare side of medium-rare, juicy and tender, with just the right amount of fat under the skin, in some kind of slightly sweet sauce, accompanied by a watercress salad with a salty citrus dressing. I liked the presentation as well; it was sliced almost but not quite through into 1/4" slices, making it easy to portion out but still with that whole-duck-breast look. Absolutely delicious, though I'd have to say a bit pricey at $23 for a single breast with minimal sides.

                        The waiter was very apologetic about the mistake (serendipity, we proclaimed it), and proceeded to bring us the pate as well, on the house. At that point we hardly had room left even to taste it, but it was very good. Most of it came home to become lunch today.

                        Bottom line: at least when Deborah is in the house, T de H doesn't seem to have lost its touch. Good food, friendly and attentive service. But that's still no excuse for off nights when she's not there.

                        P.S. MC Slim, I asked if they expected to extend the reservation system to the patio in warm weather. The waiter said Deborah hadn't decided but was leaning toward letting a couple of tables go into the Open Table system while keeping the rest for walk-ins.

              2. n
                nightsky RE: phipsi102 Mar 14, 2010 12:11 PM

                phipsi102, I've been to Taberna 3x and each time it was similar to yours. I want to love the place since it's in my neighborhood, and I love the idea of it, and the space, but every time I've been I leave feeling ripped off. The dishes I've had were very mediocre: i've been served uncleaned shrimp, dishes that were barely warm, and several that just did not live up taste-wise to their descriptions, e.g. the codfish/potato croquettes described below, sausage on grilled bread , a pepper/onion tart baked on a greasy dough that had an odd processed taste. (We joked about how they must have run out of dough and someone ran across the street to buy some Pillsbury. ) All edible enough, but unremarkable, and everything seemed like it would be really easy to whip up at home. I definitely expect better for the money you pay. Estragon's food was much better, though I've only been once.

                1. MC Slim JB RE: phipsi102 Mar 15, 2010 06:12 AM

                  Recent revisit to Taberna confirmed its many virtues in my mind. I still love pretty much everything about it: terrific food, amazing wine list, solid service (no sulky waitress in sight), gentle price tag. Really glad to see them taking reservations, too. After some of the negative reviews here, this was quite a relief.

                  http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

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