A few months after my dad's friend's daughter visited, she was back again. I was working late that night and wasn't free to meet up with her until around 9 p.m. There weren't that many places open late in the Inland Valley, but I remembered Viva Madrid in Claremont, a tapas bar I had been wanting to try for a while after seeing its flaming drink on a television newsmagazine show.
It's a little hidden. See the sign above on the street. Then walk down this alley.
The first time I tried to dine here, it was at least an hour's wait. So I ended up elsewhere. Even on a weeknight, it was still at least half an hour's wait.
We started off with a liter of red wine sangria, $18.50. In hindsight, we should've had a half-liter because we didn't finish this off, even among three people.
There was also live music with a guitar player perched high above on a little balcony in the corner of the restaurant.
Canasta de pan (Spanish basket of bread), $1.25. Don't you hate when restaurants charge for bread? But we figured there'd be things we'd want to dip.
Melon con jamon (Spanish melon with serrano ham), $3.95. The serrano ham was yummy. My dad's friend's daughter ordered seconds.
Tortilla Espanola (Spanish omelette) with potatoes, eggs, onions, and parsley, $3.50. A simple, but yummy dish.
Gamba al ajillo (Spanish shrimp cooked with garlic, white wine, parsley, lemon juice, and olive oil), $5.75. Good, but rather pricey for only three shrimp. At least we had something to dip the bread into.
I want to say this was the empanada de pollo (Spanish chicken, onions, red bell peppers, and parsley), $4.75. I remember it not being the little pot pie-like empanada that I'm used to and can't figure out what else it could be on the menu. Someone correct me if I'm wrong.
Arroz Espanol (Spanish rice cooked with saffron, red and green bell peppers, onions, and peas), $3.50. Bland. I know rice is bland in general, but seasoned rice shouldn't be.
Datiles con bacon (Spanish bacon-wrapped dates), $3.75. From all the raves about this dish on Yelp, you'd think those people have never eaten bacon-wrapped dates before. Maybe they haven't? I mean, I like bacon-wrapped dates, that's why I ordered it, but it's just sweet, gooey dates inside crisp bacon. It's good, but it won't blow your mind. Calm down Yelpers.
Croquetas de pesaco (Spanish crab, shrimp, and tuna croquettes with onions and bread crumbs), $3.75. I normally order the chicken croquettes at tapas restaurants, but got suckered in by the crab and shrimp in the ingredients list. Don't. The croquetas were burnt, dry, and tasted overwhelmingly of tuna.
Crepas de cangrejo (Spanish crepes stuffed with chilled crab topped with creamy avocado sauce), $6.50. The crab tasted like they were from a can, but my dad's friend's daughter's friend really liked this dish.
Calamares fritos (Spanish fried squid), $7.25. Can't go wrong with crispy battered squid.
Cocktel de gambas Espanol (Spanish shrimp with chopped field greens, cucumbers, and apples with a tangy cocktail sauce), $7.25. My dad's friend's daughter's friend ordered this and I'm pretty sure it wasn't what she was expecting at all. It was one shrimp on top of salad.
Pincho Moruno (Spanish marinated grilled chicken kebabs from the Moorish influence in Spain), $3.95. The others didn't like the spices because there was a bitter aftertaste. I liked it fine enough, but it can be an acquired taste. A little overly charred too.
Atmosphere-wise, it's dark and lively, and there just aren't that many places to hang out in this area that aren't chains. Everything you see in the restaurant is for sale, if you're so inclined to buy a bull's head or such.
Overall, the dishes were more miss than hit. We were all rather underwhelmed. The food was either too bland, too dry, or too overcooked. So why was there such a wait whenever I've been in the area? I guess there just aren't that many choices around here?
I don't think Viva Madrid is worth the drive, unless you live in the area and want a late night place to linger over some wine and a few appetizers. I wanted to try the flaming Spanish coffee, but in the end just wasn't feeling up to it. If you want a flaming alcoholic drink though, that's the one to get.
Our waitress was super nice and attentive, even though the restaurant was packed. I really wanted to like Viva Madrid since I like the hidden, off-beat places, but that wasn't enough to save the so-so food.
225 Yale Ave., #B
Claremont, CA 91711-4704
Tuesday to Sunday 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.
1 year ago today, Suon Kho Xi Muoi (Vietnamese Braised Pork Chops with Preserved Plums).
2 years ago today, Shio (Japanese Salt) Ramen.
3 years ago today, musings as I drove westbound along Los Angeles downtown traffic.