I have seriously been dying to try Jose Garces's tapas restaurant, Amada, for the longest time now. Having spent a semester studying (and mostly eating or taking siestas) in Spain, the bar's been set rather high. Reading the reviews on Yelp, I knew I had to get the crab-stuffed peppers that so many reviewers raved about. And trust me, I had every intention of ordering it but when the server made his way over to take my order, I had totally forgotten to do so. Oh well, I guess this means I'll have an excuse to revisit soon.
The waiter suggested that we order four or five tapas a person but I'd say three tapas each is more than enough unless you're absolutely starving (in that case, Amada is probably not a good choice).
Chips and Tuna DipThis little snack was gratis (free) and therefore that much better. The chips were fresh and crunchy and the tuna dip was marvelous. It was really creamy and tasty.
Pulpo a La Gallega (Spanish Octopus)
I almost always order grilled octopus when it's offered on the menus of Spanish or Italian restaurants. The dish looks really spicy but trust me, it wasn't. Octopus is definitely one of those tricky foods that can easily overcook but if prepared properly, tastes great. The skin had just a slight crisp and the inside was meaty but not chewy. Even the slices of potato were cooked well.
Aged Manchego with Truffled Lavender HoneyGiven that my dad is a beekeeper and bottles his own honey every year, I think I know my honey business inside and out. OK, just kidding, I'm not that much of an expert but I've definitely sampled a wide variety of honey in the past. More viscous than most, this lavender honey was thankfully not cloyingly sweet and the truffle was distinctly present. The flavor or scent of truffles is one that's hard to describe but easy to detect. As for the cheese, the crunchy manchego, though not overly sharp, paired well with the sweetness of the honey.
Datiles con Almendras- Bacon Wrapped Dates with Almonds and Cabrales
I highly recommend this tapa as it was easily my favorite (or second favorite) dish of the night. A perfectly toasted nut encased in a sweet date wrapped in a savory skin of bacon made for a perfect bite of sweet and salty. Then there's the cheese sauce that adds an element of richness, as well as moisture to offset the dryness of the meat. I wished all of the other tapas were this good.
Alcachofas y Setas- Artichoke, Wild Mushrooms, Black Truffles, Manchego Flatbread
Since when did pizzettes become a part of Spanish cuisine, I'm not entirely sure but they were offered on the menu so we sampled two. I naturally favored the shortribs flatbread pictured below because I'd choose meat over veggies any day of the week but this one wasn't bad. However, at $14 a pop, I was expecting something spectacular but that was sadly not the case. This flatbread in entirety was about the size of ONE regular slice of pizza. So with that in mind, I wouldn't recommend ordering any of the flatbreads unless you were looking for a tiny slice of overpriced pizza (call it what you will).
Costillas de Ternera- Beef Shortribs, Horseradish, Parmesan, Bacon Flatbread
As explained above, these flatbreads are good, but not great and definitely way overpriced. I will admit that the beef was extremely moist and flavorful not to mention tender and easy to eat. The crust is crisp and the flatbread wasn't greasy but these are all aspects that should come standard with any good pizza so I can't give these guys too much praise.
Our waiter, in his NOT-so-infinite wisdom, suggested this dish to us and it was unfortunately a horrible choice. I found the sauce far too salty and my dinner guest didn't enjoy the meatballs too much. I don't really know how the Spanish preparation of meatballs differ from the Italian ways (if there's any difference at all) but they tasted like your average run of the mill meatballs. After nibbling on one of these, I had to send this selection back.
Crema Catalana- Vanila Custard, Caramel Veil, Ginger and Pine Nut
We ordered this dessert thinking it sounded and hopefully would taste similar to a creme brulee but such was not the case. I had just a tiny bite of this dessert as it was rather small to begin with but I wasn't a huge fan. The "veil" is a thin film of gelatin of sorts and the custard was similar in texture to a semifreddo. I'm unsure as to why the pine nuts were paired with this ginger sauce (or vice versa) but that's beyond me.
Lemon Torta- Blueberry Jam, Lemon Confit, Blueberry Swirl Ice Cream
The blueberry ice cream (hiding in the back to the right) was almost half melted by the time it was served. NOT COOL. Literally. I was expecting the cake itself to pack a little more tartness but it was definitely on the sweeter side. In terms of texture, the cake is neither airy nor dense, something in between. It wasn't a bad end to the entire meal but I'd certainly try a different dessert next time.
Ambiance: 4 out of 5
Service: 3.5 out of 5
Food: 3.5 out of 5
Verdict: Not that I was disappointed (OK, I was slightly disappointed) with Amada but for the prices they charge for these tapas, I was expecting far better.