Through the open window decked with fairy lights, the warm glow of Oloroso, a Spanish tapas restaurant, flooded the streets. Inside, a hostess lead my girlfriend and I through the soft commotion of the restaurant towards the back, where chefs cooked on open brick fires. Unlike many tapas restaurants, where the crowd is mainly younger and liveliest around the bar, Oloroso had a homey vibe, complete with cave–style murals on the walls—perfect for a romantic date night.
What was most immediately striking was the menu. Waiters carried bone marrow and whole pigs’ heads past our kitchen–side table, giving us a preview of some of the imaginative dishes we would find on the menu. To start, we asked for our favorite off–menu tapas starter: olives, which our waitress was happy to provide. Oloroso hosts a seafood–focused menu, which we took into consideration when choosing our dishes. We ended up ordering gambas al ajillo (shrimp), patatas bravas (potatoes), and that night’s special, a rib–eye. Feeling adventurous, we also ordered the squid ink rice.
Surprisingly, the squid ink rice was the rock star of the night. The calamari, served atop a bed of creamy, cheesy, pitch–black rice, melted in our mouths. It also stained our tongues and teeth black. Yet, being adventurous at Oloroso is definitely the way to go; safer dishes like the shrimp were nothing out of the ordinary. On the other hand, the patatas bravas, served in a red sauce with a kick, were a welcome take on the tapas staple. For those who are feeling particularly daring, a chef's choice menu is available at $65 a person.
While the seafood left me slightly queasy, I opted to settle my stomach with churros for dessert. The dish arrived with three warm, crisp churros covered in cinnamon and sugar, complemented by a chocolate dipping sauce. At eight dollars, it doubled as both the most delectable and the most affordable dish on the menu.
Oloroso took me out of my comfort zone and delivered wonderfully plated and, often enjoyable, dishes. Don't miss the squid ink rice, which we gobbled down by the spoonful, but opt out of dishes like the shrimp, which you could eat elsewhere for half the price. As we waited for our Uber, stomachs full and wallets empty, we looked back on the quaint location that, for one night, provided a unique dining experience.
TL;DR: Oloroso provides a specific tapas experience—fine, seafood–based dining with out–of–the–ordinary flare.
Location: 1121 Walnut Street
Monday–Sunday: 5 p.m.–2 a.m.