Tuesday, April 25, 2017


We've wanted to go to Tertulia, Chef Seamus Mullen's Spanish restaurant, ever since it opened in 2011. Back then, they didn't take reservations and we didn't want to deal with long waits, so we put it on our list of places to try someday. Recently A saw a deal on Blackboard Eats, and it seemed like the perfect time to finally go. We had some fantastic tapas when we were in Barcelona a few years back (some of which we've written about here) and still dream about the dishes we got there, hoping we can someday find someplace at home that would meet that standard. We tried as much as possible at Tertulia hoping to find some new favorites. Here's what we got (in the order they arrived at the table) and our thoughts.

Pan con tomate (toasted bread rubbed with tomato), $8

M: If I go to a tapas place and pan con tomate is on the menu, I like to order it, both because I like it and because it offers a standard by which to compare places. The bread here seemed like country bread that was lightly rubbed with garlic and then tomatoes, and toasted on a grill. The crust was very crunchy, but the insides were nice and soft. The parts with garlic tasted really good, but the garlic unfortunately wasn't uniform throughout. I liked it and it was probably my second favorite dish of the night, but not the best pan con tomate we've had.

A: I liked that the bread was grilled as it gave it a nice smokiness and crunch while still allowing the inside to be soft and pillowy. The tomato was fresh and sweet, but there seemed to be a distinct lack of garlic flavor. I didn't really get any in the pieces of bread that I got. This wasn't bad, but we've definitely had better pan con tomate in our lives.

Rillette de credo (with beet mostarda and housemade pickles), $15:

M: This was one of the specials of the day, and it sounded really good. It reminded me most of the chicken pot we got on our appetizer board at our Sunday roast in London, as it literally was a little pot of pork and pork fat. The flavor was good, mostly just the flavor of the meat even if a bit salty, and it went well with the beet mostarda. The grilled bread on the side was good, but not enough so we had to get seconds, and also my first piece was a bit over-toasted and blackened. I wasn't that into the pickles though.

A: This was my favorite dish of the night. It was rich and creamy, and the grilled bread added a smoky flavor and some crunch. The pork was soft and flavorful, and the pickles were really interesting. They weren't traditional cornichons; they pickled all sorts of vegetables and fruit. The most interesting thing in my mind was the pickled strawberry. The beet mostarda added an element of spiciness, and the dill made it nice and fresh.

Nuestras patatas (crispy potatoes, pimentón de la vera, garlic all i oli), $9:

M: Potatoes are another thing I try to order at tapas restaurants. These potatoes were on the crispy side, kind of crunchy on the outside but nice and soft in the middle (at least for the bigger pieces). That was good most of the time until we got to some of the smaller crumbs which just tasted burnt. The best part of this though was the garlic aioli, and the bites that didn't get some of the aioli definitely were not as good. I love smoked paprika and it was very dominant in the flavor here, which I liked. This was my favorite dish of the night.

A: I usually really like patatas bravas (the closest comparison for this dish). They were crisped up really well, but some of the smaller pieces were overly crispy. I didn't mind that, but the seasoning that they put on the potatoes made those small, crispy pieces really salty. The aioli tempered the saltiness, but I didn't find it very garlicky. Also, the smoked paprika they dusted it with was very overpowering along with the salt.

Croquetas de jamón (Ibérico ham croquettes, membrillo), $12:

M: I love croquettes but hadn't even noticed these on the menu until one of the tables next to us got an order of them. I was expecting solid fried balls filled with ham and potato mush, but these were more like a hard shell with some sort of creamy ham sauce inside. I think I was expecting something denser. The ham was there, but not that strong in flavor, and I wasn't that into the quince paste (membrillo) but that could be more personal preference about mixing fruit into the dish.

A: I was not expecting what we ended up getting with these croquettes. I was expecting a solid croquette with jamon, but it was basically a fried ball surrounding a stew. It was really odd, and the quince paste made it even odder. It added a sweetness that didn't really seem to pair that well with the salty croquette.

Coles de Bruselas (grilled Hudson Valley brussels sprouts, wild boar bacon, mojo verde), $14:

M: I had high hopes for this dish but didn't really like it at all. The Brussels sprouts were fine, a little crunchy, but the entire flavor of the dish was a little on the bitter side. Not sure if that was from the meat or the sauce (even though there was not much of either), but the taste was a little off-putting for me, and I didn't really want much of it sadly.

A: I usually really like Brussels sprouts cooked with bacon, but there didn't seem to be much of any bacon in here. I had one piece, and that was about all of the bacon we got in the dish. I felt bad since M didn't get a piece, but I didn't think we'd only get the one piece. Other than that, the sprouts tasted pretty good. I didn't taste the mojo verde at all, but the sprouts themselves tasted okay. This was fairly plain, and it ended up being my least favorite dish of the night.

Txipirones a la plancha (baby squid, grilled bitter greens, warm tomato vinaigrette), $16:

M: This dish was pretty good. The "baby squid" weren't quite as small as what I was expecting based on what we had eaten in Barcelona that was called txipirones, but they were fine. All together, there wasn't really anything wrong with the dish other than it was a little bit salty, and the combination of everything together tasted nice and fresh with all the vegetables. Unfortunately it reminded me that we still haven't found a txipirones dish in the States that remotely matches what we had in Spain.

A: This was the dish that M and I were most excited for. On our vacation to Barcelona we fell in love with txipirones whether they were grilled or fried. The tomato vinaigrette was sweet and fresh tasting, and the grilled bitter greens weren't bitter, but they offered a bit more freshness to the dish. My big complaint, though, was that the dish was pretty salty overall. It made things hard to eat and made the dish rather disappointing.

Arroz a la plancha (Calasparra rice, snails, wild mushrooms, celery, fennel, Ibérico ham), $23:

M: I liked this one more than A did. The rice was a little bit like a risotto, very creamy, and the flavor was familiar, even if I couldn't quite place it. It tasted a little charred, but not in a bad way. The toppings were really fresh and it was nice getting some light vegetables alongside the heavier rice. After we ate it, I was listening to some guy at the table next to us who kept raving about this dish to his meal partner, and while I did think it was pretty good, I'm not sure if I'm even close to as into it as he was. It came out with the txipirones, and between the two, I liked the squid better, but this was fine.

A: I didn't know what to expect from this dish, but it sounded really interesting. I love snails as a general matter so adding them to what amounted to Spanish fried rice seemed like a great thing. Overall this was just okay. The main flavor came from the ham, and there wasn't that much of it. The snails also had a bit of a sour taste to them. It wasn't completely off-putting, but it wasn't great.

Tarta de Santiago (traditional almond tart, stewed berries, creme fraiche gelato), $8:

M: The dessert we associate most with our time in Spain is almond cake, having had an excellent one at the end of lunch one day and being completely surprised by how wonderful it was. This one was not as soft as that almond cake, and also just kind of stiff. I wasn't a big fan of the gelato and gave most of it to A, but I did like the berry sauce. Overall, it was just okay. Still better than the Brussels sprouts.

A: Harkening back to our Barcelona trip again, we had a great Tarta de Santiago at lunch one day. I even tried to recreate it here at home with mixed success. This rendition was... different. Instead of being a smoother, finer ground almond meal cake, this was very coarse and a little stiffer. The creme fraiche gelato was odd as well. It tasted just like creme fraiche, but I don't know that those two flavors go together. The berries were really nice.


We did like our meal at Tertulia overall, even if it was a bit salty and not as good as we were expecting it to be. We've had so many amazing tapas over the years, both in the States and in Barcelona, so it's a decently high bar but one that we thought this one would soar over based on the reviews we remembered. In the end, it wasn't bad for tapas and we were glad we went, but not something we need to race back for sometime soon.

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