Sunday, November 07, 2010

Viva Madrid - Claremont

Viva Madrid - Claremont 1

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.

Viva Madrid - Claremont 2

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.

Viva Madrid - Claremont 3

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.

Viva Madrid - Claremont 4

There was also live music with a guitar player perched high above on a little balcony in the corner of the restaurant.

Viva Madrid - Claremont 5

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.

Viva Madrid - Claremont 6

Melon con jamon (Spanish melon with serrano ham), $3.95. The serrano ham was yummy. My dad's friend's daughter ordered seconds.

Viva Madrid - Claremont 7

Tortilla Espanola (Spanish omelette) with potatoes, eggs, onions, and parsley, $3.50. A simple, but yummy dish.

Viva Madrid - Claremont 8

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.

Viva Madrid - Claremont 9

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.

Viva Madrid - Claremont 10

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.

Viva Madrid - Claremont 11

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.

Viva Madrid - Claremont 12

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.

Viva Madrid - Claremont 13

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.

Viva Madrid - Claremont 14

Calamares fritos (Spanish fried squid), $7.25. Can't go wrong with crispy battered squid.

Viva Madrid - Claremont 15

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.

Viva Madrid - Claremont 16

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.

Viva Madrid - Claremont 17

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.

Viva Madrid - Claremont 18

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.

Viva Madrid
225 Yale Ave., #B
Claremont, CA 91711-4704
Closed Mondays
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.


  1. hi wc - although you and your friends had a nice selection of tapas, too bad the food wasn't so good. i agree with you about the gambas al ajillo. what a ripoff, only 3 shrimp? i like making mine with lots of garlic and smoked paprika - gives it a kick, it does.

  2. CC,
    For that price, I could've bought a pound of shrimp! I think for the area though, there just isn't much going on. So it's not a bad place if you want a non-chain and somewhat lively atmosphere.

  3. To answer the Empanada question, the reason you got that instead of the tiny meat pies that are moon shaped that are more commonly seeen is that in Spain the EMpanada is typically a giant meat pie, like usually done on large cookie sheets, a big square cake with meat or seafood filling, so what you received was a slice of that large pie. Outside of Spain in other Latin countries this type of Empanada is referred to "Empanada Gallega" (Galician meat pie)

    However I'm shocked at the sliced empanada floating in that tomato sauce, that's something I'm not used to.

    I agree the "gambas al ajillo" was a total rip off too :/

    I feel like feauturing each one of those dishes on my blog and showing how I make it at home lol. so you can make em instead of having to go there hehe.

  4. Nathan,
    Oh thank you! That makes sense now. Yeah, if you do blog them all, I wouldn't have to go here. Actually, I haven't been back since dinner was so expensive for something so lackluster.


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