The first experience should have scared me. Maybe I should have given up already.
Despite Dave’s generous review, I’d have to respectfully disagree — Lola Bar y Tapas is not a good place for Spanish tapas.
El Barral is.
I had walked by a lot of times, because I used to spend a lot of time in the Zona Gastronómica, this section of the Jardines neighborhood in Envigado with a cluster of restaurants.
You feel like El Barral is special as you are walking in, after noticing the art deco architecture outside, and the plants and wine rack and simple but elegant wooden tables that contribute to the atmosphere inside.
The experience started well as a waitress hurried over to our table, impressive considering it was El Dia del Amor y Amistad, Colombia’s Valentine’s Day, and the restaurant was full.
Our food arrived quickly as well: three paellitas (mini paellas), an order of potato wedges with a spicy red sauce on the side, and croquetas de jamón. We all had eaten a late lunch and were not too hungry.
All three dishes were excellent, the croquetas my favorite. Those fried and breaded pieces of ham and flour melted in your mouth, as the good ones should.
The paellas had the right mix of flavors, a good balance among garlic, onion and tomato sauce enriching the rice, and the seafood that came with it was pretty fresh.
With our drinks, which included a half bottle of rum, our check was 135,000 pesos, or about $71.50.
Toward the end of the meal, a couple of the owners came by to say hello. I’ve said before I always like that, that it’s a nice touch.
The owners wanted to know where we were from, and by “we” I mean my friend Quinn and me, because our dates were Colombian.
We had questions too, like how they decided on the name of the restaurant, what it means exactly.
We learned that a barral is a leather boot that holds wine, something the chef would take a drink from during the cooking process. Sounds like what we drink guaro from on horseback riding trips.
The next thing I want to learn: how the ceviche and the rest of the menu tastes. Maybe one of the wines on the big rack against the wall too.
As we headed out the door, to go to La Tienda for some salsa dancing, the owners stopped what they were doing to say goodbye.
That was nice. We’ll be greeting each other again soon enough.