Date reviewed: 8/26/15
When dining alone, you don’t always get the best table. I arrived at Lola Mexican Fish House by myself, and was seated in a corner next to the wait staff entrance to the kitchen. I actually didn’t mind this location. I always like a corner; I can see the whole room and no one is going to sneak up behind me. The set up at Lola is an open view of the kitchen, though from my angle, it was difficult to see much of what went on back there. The biggest drawback to the table was as wait staff entered the kitchen they needed to yell “corner!” to warn anyone carrying a plate of hot food that someone was about to smash into them if they didn’t heed the warning). By the end of the night, I just wanted to yell randomly “corner” every few minutes in case I hadn’t heard it in a while.
I started with the special margarita of the night, made with extra añejo tequila. Extra añejo means that it was aged more than three years, in this case aged 37 months. While very good, I found it to be a little bitter (more on this later).
My opening course was eight oysters. I had two east coast and two west coast grilled oysters served with a chimichurri sauce. The waiter said that the east coast ones would be more briny than the west coast. I found the opposite to be true, however. The west coast pair was easily more briny, and the east coast oysters’ mild flavor got completely lost in the chimichurri sauce. The other four oysters were the more traditional raw oysters. Once again, I had two each of the east and west coast oysters. The raw oysters came with two sauces: a rice vinegar sauce and a jalapeño horseradish sauce. Just like the grilled oysters, the west coast oysters had the more briny taste. I expected to like the jalapeño horseradish sauce, and I did, but it turns out that the best bite of the evening was the west coast oyster dipped into the rice vinegar. My mouth exploded (not literally) with salt and acid. It was incredibly flavorful and delicious.
My second margarita was the “Casa Coin” margarita. It was made with a blanco tequila. Blanco means that it was aged less than three months (or not at all). In other words, I went the exact opposite direction as the first margarita with my tequila. Like my first margarita, I found it to be a little on the bitter side. My theory (and only a theory) is that the orange liqueur that they used is very bitter – like they used the rind to make it. All of it. And forgot to dilute it.
For my main course, I had the Ahi Tuna. From the menu description: coffee/chile crusted, avocado, warm potato/grilled rapini salad. The seasoning on the tuna was excellent – a perfect blend of flavor and a little bit of heat, but not so over powering as to need to blow my nose. The tuna itself was seared perfectly – nice and tender on the inside. I don’t know what the sauce was, but it was only “okay.” It was a slightly smoky, bitter chile sauce – like a slightly stale chipotle pepper. It did go with the dish quite nicely even though I wasn’t crazy about the taste. While eating, I originally thought I was having kale, but I now realize that it was the rapini that I was eating. It is an understandable mix-up, because they both have slightly bitter undertones. If you have been reading closely, you might see an underlying theme developing – “bitterness.” Everything I was served seemed to have a slight bitterness to it (except the oysters). The margaritas were doused in it. The tuna was covered with it (coffee is bitter), the sauce was bitter, and the underlying salad was bitter. If I were a bitter man, I would say the dish was bitter, covered in bitter, on top of bitter, dipped in bitter and washed down with a little bitter. [Full disclosure, I had Starbucks coffee immediately prior to my dining experience, so I was already a little bitter.]
After all that bitterness, I needed something sweet. I looked for the sweetest thing I could find on the desert menu. I ordered the churros with a side of chocolate. The cinnamon churros were exactly what my mouth ordered. The accompanying chocolate however was Mexican chocolate. Mexican chocolate can be… you guessed it, a little bitter. That, or I still had some residual bitterness from my meal.
The evening ended on a sour (!) note. Lola shares free valet service with the restaurant next door. The valet stand is located in front of the other restaurant, so as you leave, you tell the hostess that you are leaving and she calls the valet and he brings your car around. While I waited, I watched a running group do hill repeats several times – most of them didn’t finish all the way to the top. Several repeats and 30 minutes later the hostess comes out, and asks “Are you still waiting for your car?” completely horrified. She walks down to the valet stand and 30 seconds later, I have my car. Apparently, he didn’t hear the call over the walkie-talkie that I needed my car.
Overall, it was a very pleasant meal. While I left with my mouth full of bitterfire (New Word Alert!), the meal was extremely well prepared and delicious. I believe that it was a combination of the foods that I had that led to the bitterness overload (Starbucks + margarita + chile/coffee + rabini + Mexican chocolate). It was still a shade on the bitter side overall and needed to be a little bit more balanced, like maybe add a sugar cube to the dish and I could just lick it every once in a while to refresh the palate. It was a shade on the pricy side, but I did have two margaritas and a three-course meal. In the end, I’d highly recommend the restaurant, though maybe the tequila flight wouldn’t be as bitter.
WWYT Rating: 7.9
Gayot Rating: 13/20