My problem has never been adding dishes to my dinner order, but rather eliminating enough items while browsing the menu that I can reasonably call it a meal instead of a banquet. I can’t help it. I’m a food blogger. I like as much variety as I can cram into each meal. And the more photos, the better. Naturally, the small plates known as tapas in Spanish cuisine are a perfect solution here.
So I can’t believe it took me until age twenty-one to try tapas. Every time my boyfriend and I drove by Dali Restaurant & Tapas Bar in Somerville, he told me that I would love the food. And because I’m a busy girl with places to go and cities to eat, it took me another couple weeks after my twenty-first birthday before we got together with my parents to celebrate. But finally I was ready.
Friday, November 1, 2013. I’ve gotten so used to dining at new restaurants with sleek, modern interiors that are brightly lit with clean lines of silver and black, and then Dali hit me over the head when I walked in. The décor is so busy. The tables are plated with ceramic tiles in creative designs, plus flowers and figurines all around, beads hanging from the walls and ceilings, more colors and lights and patterns than my eye knew what to do with. It was all very fun. I hoped the meal would be as fun, and I wasn’t disappointed.
People tell me that alcohol is an acquired taste. You know what taste I didn’t have to acquire? Lemonade. It was good right from the get-go. Thus, in celebration of turning twenty-one, I flipped to the “No Alcohol” section of the menu and went with the fresh and tangy oscarito.
It was my birthday celebration, so I got to pick all of the dishes. This was a birthday present of its own!
Our first course was the all-around favorite course of the night, the gambas al ajillo, and we ended up ordering another plate later. These itty-bitty shrimp sizzled in a pool of olive oil and garlic. More foods should come served in pools of oil and garlic, don’t you think?
If I had been a little more thoughtful and a little less hungry, I would have realized that soup wouldn’t work well as a tapas dish to be shared. The waiter brought us multiple spoons, and we made do. I would recommend the dish but as a single appetizer rather than a shared tapas. The hearty broth was savory despite the sweetness of the apricot. The components—pasta, lamb, and broth—proportioned relatively evenly, with a fruity undertone.
I first fell in love with salt cod fritters at Tomasso Trattoria in Southboro and usually order them if I see them on a menu. At Dali, the batter shell was thin but still crunchy, the inside moist and briny.
I love cheese, and I love vegetables when deep-fried to the point that you can’t tell they were once vegetables, so I just about swooned over these cauliflower-broccoli cheese puffs. The interior was pureed smooth and fluffy, the exterior thick and crispy. These were a close second to the garlic shrimp for my favorite course of the night.
Usually peppers bring the spice and the sour cream relieves it, but in the case of the pimiento relleno, the spicy sour cream packed more heat than the mild chile pepper. Unusual, but it worked!
The quail was another course that we all enjoyed but would work better for one person to eat as an appetizer, or maybe for two people to split as a tapas plate, than four people trying to share. That being said, it was my mom’s favorite course of the evening.
This concluded the first round of tapas. And with them proving themselves worthy, I placed our order for a second round. The obvious choice was a second order of the garlic shrimp, accompanied by a Catalan take on bruschetta, sweet lamb chops, and tuna-stuffed squid. My dad and I devoured the squid before my mom and boyfriend could get more than a couple bites.
Dessert bell! My favorite time of day.
My boyfriend cleaned up these Spanish doughnuts. He asked for a second cup of chocolate sauce, and upon finishing the churros, he downed the remaining liquid chocolate as a shot. That’s right, he keeps it classy.
Our waiter recommended the bread pudding. My mom inquired about its density, and he assured her it was quite light. I’ve had bread pudding several times but wouldn’t have described it as “light” on any occasion, so I was intrigued. My mom and I both ordered it. “Light” barely begins to describe this bread pudding—it was practically a cloud. A sweet, dreamy, mouthwatering cloud. Talk about ending my birthday meal on a high note!
On my next visit I’ll explore more of the menu, but I will definitely include my top three favorite items from this dinner: garlic shrimp, broccoli-cheese puffs, and bread pudding.
Don’t let the outdated website put you off. Dali won several Best of Boston awards for Spanish cuisine. I don’t have a ton of experience with Spanish cuisine to date, but I feel like this was as good an introduction as I could imagine, because I can’t wait to try tapas again!
INFORMATION as of February 2015
Address & Phone
415 Washington Street
Somerville, MA 02143