Sherman's Food Adventures: Bodega


Earlier on, I had visited Bodega when it was still fairly new.  I came away with mixed feelings where a return visit wasn't high on my list.  Maybe I was unfairly comparing it to the shuttered La Bodega (Father ran that, son runs Bodega)?  I'm curious how it would do against some of the newer tapas spots in town.  Well, give Bodgea credit because the restaurant is still there bustling with activity.  So I wondered, did they improve?  Yah, that's what I heard from other people.  But one must really experience it for themselves because our opinions regarding food is subjective.  

What better way to kick things off than the classic Patatas Bravas?  Yep, we used to enjoy this dish at La Bodega on Howe in Downtown.  I'm glad that this was still as good as we remembered with crispy chunks of fully cooked potatoes.  Compared to a recent version we tried at Havana, this was much better as the chunks weren't as big, so they were fluffy.  As for the sauce, it was smoky from the paprika and lightly tangy with background spice.  Next, we had the Calamares Fritos which were serviceable.  A little pale, the squid rings were the beneficiary of possibly new oil, hence the colour.  I say that because it wasn't as if it wasn't fried enough.  Rather, the batter was light and crispy while not greasy.  It could've stood for more seasoning in the batter though.  The side of lemon and aioli did help in this regard.

Costanza and I really enjoyed the Callos a la Madrileña or beef tripe in a stew of tomato, chorizo and paprika.  Naturally, we love offal and that would already put this dish high on our lists of preferences.  Delightfully, it was prepared well with tender pieces of tripe that were appealingly gamy.  The best part was the stew itself as the tomato was richly flavoured and smoky earthiness from the paprika.  What added an extra layer of depth was the chorizo as the fat and spice really came through.  Something remarkably simple was also quite good. The Pollo Frito (fried chicken wings brined with garlic and sherry) was reminiscent of Asian-style wings being juicy and moist.  On the outside, the skin was fairly rendered and crunchy.  Due to the brine, there was also no absence of seasoning which made the wings good on their own even without the side of aioli.  

Another solid dish was the Pulpo a la Parilla (grilled octopus with piquillo romesco).  Nicely braised until tender, then grilled with sufficient charring, the octopus had the desired texture being soft with a chew.  There was even a slight crispiness from the char on the outside.  It was seasoned enough, but the romesco was a good compliment with nutty sweetness.  To amp things up even more so, there was a side of roasted garlic.  One of the more meh dishes we had was the Gambas al Ajillo (sautéed prawns in garlic and chilies with sherry).  There was nothing particularly wrong about the execution as the prawns were buttery with a snap.  The real problem was the muted flavours of the dish.  Was it garlicky?  Somewhat.  Was it spicy?  Not at all.  So they could improve this dish with just a bit more punch (was better last time).

Simple and well-portioned, the Champiñones (sautéed mixed mushrooms with garlic, sherry and finely grated aged manchego) was fantastic.  Although the plate wasn't particularly large, you must remember mushrooms cooked down considerably, so this was pretty bountiful.  They were subjected to enough heat for caramelization while they weren't overdone either.  Buttery with a bite, the mushrooms were also tasty with the garlic and cheese coming through with an aromatic nuttiness.  For only the sole reason to compare with the one from Como Taperia up the street, we ordered the Tortilla Española (potato and onion omelette with aioli and mixed olives).  This one was a bit different, served as large wedge rather than a whole circle.  With a section of a larger circular omelette, this was a bit looser.  I didn't mind it as it was somewhat lighter despite the layers of potato.  It was more mild, but I did get the onion and the charred flavour from the outside.

The most basic dish we had was the Chorizo a la Parrilla served with mustard.  At the same time, it was one of our favourites.  Grilled and charred beautifully, the flavours were definitely activated with smokiness, spiciness and fatty aromatics.  Of course, the mustard was a natural compliment to the sausage.  Okay, the first time I was here, the Paella Mixta was a bit of a disappointment.  This time around, it was significantly better boasting a generous amount of seafood, chicken, chorizo and pork.  Due to the amount of ingredients and most importantly, the chorizo (there was none last time), we found the chewy rice to be flavourful and aromatic.  The seafood was properly prepared where the large prawns were our favourite.  This was a good end to a pleasant time with friends over food and drink.  Much better than the first time I went and proves that multiple visits are necessary to give restaurants a fair shake.

The Good:
- Above-average and better than the first time I went
- Reasonably-priced
- Acceptable portions for tapas

The Bad:
- Service was friendly, but could be more attentive


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