Saturday, September 18, 2010

Alegria for a tapas night

Alegria Mediterranean Bistro and Bar

Contrary to what I wrote 2 weeks ago about embarking on a healthy lifestyle change of exercise and reduced restaurant trips, I have been eating out like a mad woman these past few days. It's not entirely my fault. Most dining events have been circumstantial rather than volunteered. And in my defense, I did manage to be good for 1 week.

Last night, I was meeting up with Mochi and Hien for dinner. I was already full from lunch with my grandparents so having been granted the power of choice, I went with a tapas restaurant because that gives the option of keeping your meal light.

Alegria is a new restaurant located on trendy Park Rd in Milton. Try as I may, I can't remember what used to be in its place.

They have an efficient high tech booking system that allows you to get confirmation right away, as to whether or not your desired table is available. When we got there, I told the waitress of my booking and was asked 'are you Cora?'

Cool! What a way to feel VIP :).

The first thing we noticed and commented on was how nice the restaurant looked. I go on about 'ambiance' a fair bit in my posts. Sometimes, it's just out of a duty to comment comprehensively about everywhere I eat. In the case of Alegria, you must excuse me if I waffle on about their ambiance because in my opinion, it's the stand out feature of the restaurant. It's less so due to the furnishings but more about the use of space. Alegria has a high vaulted ceiling at the bar, stone tiles and lots of wood and raw brick. I love the contrast of rustic, natural materials and contemporary furniture. The bright lighting also prevents it from falling into the 'wooden den' stereotype.

The menu contains a few tapas plates, recommended for sharing, as well as regular mains.

We chose a bread to start with and after asking the waitress for advice on quantity, 4 tapas plates. I also insisted on a 1/2 liter of sangria.

White wine sangria

Our sangria came first. I have fond memories of sangria parties. For those who don't know, it's basically a punch with wine, juice, fresh, chopped fruit and some spices (usually cinnamon). I never knew there was a white or red version (my own version contains both) but the menu at Alegria allows you to choose. Hien suggested the white because he claims (and I quote) "it is more palatable".

The 1/2 liter jug provided a little more than a glass each for the three of us. As the non-driver and pro-drinker, I had the privilege of finishing everyone else's share. No complaints there because I really liked this sangria. It was a nice blend of alcohol and juice and not too sweet.

Rustic Moroccan bread

The bread came next. We had a debate about using the word 'rustic' to describe bread. Mochi and I both felt that rustic bread sounded very appealing. In a home-milled and home-baked way. Hien thought it sounded moldy and old. In any case, we chose the rustic Moroccan bread. I was a bit disappointed when it was brought out because I pictured a huge, crusty, country loaf with a blade sticking out but instead, it was more like pita bread with a fresh herb salad. The salad was predominantly mint and parsley with a few olives. Different and nice but not what I was expecting.

Our tapas share plate

Our tapas were all brought out in a tray. I think 3 people is a good number to be sharing these since 2 of our plates contained 3 items each. It was easy to have one each.

Arancini of veal ragu and peas

I went for the arancini first because it was the easiest to grab. Arancini are fried risotto balls, often with a cheese filling. These had a veal ragu. Not bad but a bit underwhelming in flavor. I asked for salt to boost it up a bit.

Mochi had chosen the stuffed peppers with salted cod. Nice idea and fresh ingredients. However, once again I think they needed to boost the flavor a bit. The filling was supposed to be salted cod but it tasted like unseasoned white fish to me.

Chorizo on a shaved fennel salad with a fino sherry dressing

I predicted that Hien would choose the chorizo and he did. Chorizo is like haloumi in that it's rarely bad. This one was flavorsome and spicy. I liked the chorizo itself but also liked the accompanying fennel and rocket salad. It was nice and light to compliment the full-bodied flavor of the chorizo.

Our last dish was the whiting with jamon and roast capsicum. I had no idea what jamon was until today because I just Googled it and thought 'ah, so that's what that meat was'. Initially, I thought the dish had sheets of bacon, which I avoided. Then I tried a piece and decided it was more like pancetta... saltier and tastier than bacon with a chewier consistency. However, it's not pancetta but rather 'jamon' which is essentially the same thing but from Spain rather than Italy.

The service at Alegria was fantastic from start to finish. I've already mentioned how much I loved the 'feel' of the restaurant. As for food itself, it was good but not great and that might count against the prices which are on the high side for tapas. I agree with the waitress in that 4-5 tapas plates are the best for sharing amongst 3 people. I would go back because it was an overall pleasant dining experience and I liked it enough to try their mains.
Alegria Mediterranean Bistro and Bar on Urbanspoon

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