Sometimes you wish dinner was just appetizers and desserts. Which is why tapas is great. Ben, my mother, and I went to Small Plates, tucked away off of JFK street in Harvard Sq on a Thursday night. It replaced another tapas joint, Iruna, a while ago and has had a number of positive reviews.
Not many people there at 6:30pm. After describing the specials (trying to use the right accent for the spanish and french words), our waiter told us they were out of a few dishes. Turns out this was the last night of the current menu, so some plates had already been phased out. We ordered two plates per person (most being between $7-10 each), and had a round of drinks while we waited. The smoked scallion bread, made in-house, was cold and gummy. We ate it anyway.
The decor was clean and comfortable, white table cloths, bright interior. The music was unobtrusive, and we started singing along with a Wallflowers song, and our waiter got excited and told us we should check out their newer albums. As more early 90’s pop came on, we learned they use Pandora as their music player.
And we waited. A while. Usually with tapas, they start bringing out plates as they are ready. But apparently not here. We were there nearly 45 minutes until the first four plates came out. A smooth, yellow gazpacho was clean tasting, and had the perfect amount of spice. The spicy tuna was served rare atop a crispy patty of sticky rice. The tuna wasn’t spicy at all, but the rice cake was chewy and crispy – I could have eaten several of them. The stand-out was a thyme ricotta crepe, with a tomato gremolata and broccolini. The thyme wasn’t overpowering, crepe tender, and ricotta worked well together aside the sweet gremolata.
I was especially excited about the braised rabbit. We were severely let down. Despite being covered in an undescribable sauce, the flavors were flat. Salt would have helped, but there wasn’t much flavor to intensify. And it wasn’t as tender as we were hoping for from a braise.
After another 10 minutes, the two fish plates arrived. The sardines, while large, were also flat in taste, and clumsy with their million tiny bones. The flesh was dry and pasty. The skate wing was better, served with spinach and a hazlenut butter sauce. Sadly, the skate was soggy and limp, and the pile of skate and spinach was a similar consistency.
We skipped dessert and paid the bill – $93 for 3 people, including tip and tax. Given the size of the plates – they were impressively big for tapas, which was a great surprise – this seemed like a good deal. While I would go again to give it another try, especially with the new menu, the others said they would not rush back.