Since the parental units and the baby brother are in town for the holidays, we’ve been eating out a lot, and tonight, we tried a recently-opened tapas restaurant my dad had read about in the tourist magazine at his hotel. I thought the meal, while pricey, was very good indeed, and my family seemed pretty pleased as well. The significant other (who shall henceforth be known as “His Lordship”, to avoid the inherent potential confusion with Jehovah caused by my earlier references to “the Lord”) also enjoyed the meal quite a lot, but he also had such strong opinions about the price point of a certain menu item that he was moved to write an online review on CitySearch to get it off his chest. However, since CitySearch ruthlessly caps reviews at a meager 150 words, he did not get to do real justice to his deeply felt beliefs, and had to settle for a hopelessly truncated version.

I should observe that nothing, but nothing, makes His Lordship crankier faster than a bad or overpriced meal. He has very exacting standards regarding quality to price ratios, and while he’s willing to compromise on quality if the price is low enough, and, conversely, to gladly pay good money if the quality is high, there is a decided point at which the perceived cost/value disparity is so great that he’ll go postal. I’m not talking about being a bit peeved; I’m talking about a surly, argumentative funk so palpable that I will do nearly anything to jog him out of the ensuing dark humor. While the rest of this meal was good enough to stave off that particular demon, there was one thing that really set him off, and since his restaurant rants are, after the funk, usually rather entertaining, I thought it would be nice to give him a forum in which to fully express himself. Thus, in his own words, here’s His Lordship’s full review of tonight’s meal:

All right, you’ve seen the prices as you walk past this new restaurant front in Center City. We know that you will be paying a pretty penny for some tasty food, but come on, $12 for ONE empanada? (Description: “Amada’s Empanada: Spinach, Manchego & Artichoke”) I asked the server about this after taking one bite and he proceed to tell me that the $12 empanada had aged Manchego and plantain dough. Let me get one thing straight, the food was excellent and as long as I have the perception of value (through ingredients, taste, amount, presentation, etc…) I am going to be game, but $12 for ONE empanada (see description again)?! Download the menu and compare the prices and the price for that small empanada will jump out at you (I admit that it said empanada singular and not plural, as my friends pointed out to me).

Okay, enough about the empanada (it was small too, about 2-4 bites worth). The service was good and the ambience was a bit loud but not too overbearing. The feminine drink I had (All About My Mother), a lavender grape gimlet, was a great start to the meal but the white wine sangria, according to my tablemates, was a bit wimpy. Service was knowledgeable and attentive, and was always ready to bring more bread. (Take note from other reviews: make sure you request bread…)

My friends who have been to Spain also pointed out (as other have here) that this “high concept” restaurant atmosphere is not authentic tapas, but in America it seems that tapas has been mostly available only in “elite” status.

Okay, I have been complaining and possibly nitpicking at what was all in all an exceptional dining experience which was highlighted by the lamb chops, which were possibly the best I have ever had (tender, juicy, perfectly seasoned). The sea bass was also memorable (crispy, flaky, served with clams on the side with the best sauce of the night, an herb cream sauce). The traditional octopus was tender and perfectly cooked. The baked goat cheese was creamy and slightly smoky and the tomato sauce was just sweet enough to balance the tanginess of the cheese (but I could probably make this at home easily) and the fava bean salad was nicely seasoned and a fair size. For those looking for value, the roasted pork over beans is a large portion although does not rise to the preciousness of most of the other dishes. Try the crema catalana with the cinnamon under the brulee and the hint of rosewater. I agree with previous reviews that with each bite, you truly get a taste experience that you can savor and you only need a few bites to experience the essence of the dish.

The next time I have clients to take out and can expense the meal, I will take them to Amada.

By the way, I strongly suspect that “$12 empanada” is now going to be the gold standard and ready shorthand for any overpriced item in the foreseeable future.

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