This is why I (mostly) liked Solera

One time, when I lived over on 18th and Park, my girlfriend at the time put her hands over a small, cheap painting on the wall and asked me to describe it. She was trying to make a point about how unobservant I am in regards to things like dcor, fashion and similarly boring crap. The painting was there when I moved in two years earlier. I’d walked past this painting about 184,936 times in the interim and sure enough I had no bloody idea what was in the painting. But I don’t accept defeat so easily, especially in the face of such smug-fueled delight, so I decided to take a high-probability guess:

“Flowers?”

I was wrong. Not only was I wrong, but I lived in that apartment for another year after that episode and I still don’t know what was in that painting. I wanna say some sort of landscape? This is why I hate art.

But she was right. Unless I’m somewhere like the Duomo in Florence, where I’m specifically tasked to observe, absorb and later describe the features and adornments, these details usually escape me. I have other things on my mind, like who in my immediate vicinity is braless.

So, it really says something about the interior design of Solera that I not only noticed the canoe-shaped tables and couches, brushed-steel accents and the dreamy, Dr. Seuss light fixtures, but I actually commented on them to my stunned companion who knows full well how rarely I internalize such things.

I’d been hearing about Solera for years, usually in casual conversations between people hipper than me or in some City Pages-related capacity. I finally showed my face in the bar during happy hour last week with a good mind to rate their tapas. Having sampled copious tapas in every corner of Spain, I came prepared with my critiquing notebook and my well-worn copy of the “Pocket Thesaurus of Bitchy Culinary Slams,” but I was denied my fun. Despite only having the pick of the abbreviated happy hour menu, for the most part I was happily surprised by the imagination and overall quality of the tapas.

Since we were the first people in the door at 4:20PM, we had our choice of funny couches and were the beneficiaries of very attentive service until almost 6:00PM when the place very suddenly became standing room only. By that stage, my companion and I had covered a lot of happy hour ground.

I started with the chorizo bocadillo with Galician remoulade, which was one of my favorites, and not just because it looked like a hamburger. The chorizo was perfectly prepared and the remoulade was just the right level of tangy. The perfectly balanced flavors of the poached shrimp with hot pepper/citrus vinaigrette came next and I started bracing myself for the best night of tapas I’d had outside of San Sebastian. Then the disappointing ham and cheese croquetas, sullied the buzz. The “croquetas” were little more than glorified Zwieback toast, so if you bit straight into it you’d scrape a layer of skin off the roof of your mouth and if you tried to cut it, it’d shatter with toast shards exploding off the plate onto the floor.

We recovered nicely with the piquillo peppers stuffed with herbed goat’s milk cheese, which was as shockingly flavorful as I had hoped. The shrimp and tetilla croquetas were delicious, though they should really be allowed to cool before being served so the molten interior doesn’t scald unsuspecting tongues. Finally, the grilled asparagus with romesco and manchego cheese arrived, which went a little overboard on the salt and wasn’t much of a thrill, but at least it didn’t cause further mouth injuries.

The drinks were also hit or miss. They served expertly mixed Iron Butterflies, which they better damn well do at $7 a pop, but their red wine sangria (an affordable $2.50 during happy hour, though not as affordable as the $2 it says on the web site), had about a thimble of actual wine in it. It was admittedly refreshing, and I’m sure they’re hugely popular out on the roof in summer, but if you want even a modest buzz you’ll be needing about 16 of them. Twenty if you’re eating too.

Though the prices start to get intimidating after happy hour, the menu certainly looks intriguing. I’ll probably have to wait until someone else is paying to delve into that or I’m invited to write a proper review with expense reimbursement (hint, hint).

And though I moved home too late to personally attend, judging by last summer’s schedule, the weekly movies on the roof night (August and September only) looks like gangs of after work fun, but I’ll probably do my earnest happy hour drinking somewhere a little less pricey.

Solera
900 Hennepin Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55403
(612) 338-006

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Happy Hour | 11.11.2007 15:19 | Comments Off on This is why I (mostly) liked Solera

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