It’s a long story, but last week I found myself making dinner plans with a 12-year-old aspiring restaurant critic named Andrew. I can’t remember what I wanted to be when I was 12—I think it had something to do with street dancing and hosting a late-night talk show (at the same time, naturally). But I certainly didn’t have the drive of my young companion. Fresh from spending a month in Spain, where he wrote reviews of every restaurant he visited, he seemed like a particularly apropos person to accompany me to Tapas Las Ramblas.
Andrew was actually a little sick of tapas after eating so many of them in Barcelona, but he was a trouper, selecting some options from the seemingly interminable list of dishes as I bored him with the history of the restaurant. “This used to be Il Fiasco, but it’s the same owners,” I droned. Andrew couldn’t have cared less. He told me what he wanted to eat, and when our food started to arrive he asked that I give him my opinion. That, after all, was really the only thing that interested him. Then, in turn, he would give me his.
I obliged him, of course. I told him I thought the white anchovy crostini was good, the fish’s sharp notes tempered by olive oil (though the Manchego could have been better). Andrew agreed.
I told him I liked the spinach that came with the salmon—it had a strong punch of garlic, and the salmon itself was cooked to a perfect medium rare.
“But the salmon was kind of bland,” Andrew said. And when I thought about it, I decided he had a point.
Patatas bravas came out. Andrew popped one in his mouth and quickly screwed his face into a disgusted grimace. He put his hands over his mouth. “Too spicy,” he managed to say, reaching for a glass of water. I didn’t have quite the same reaction, but I did notice that the only thing the potatoes tasted like was chile pepper.
Andrew doesn’t eat shellfish or pork, so when it came to the bacon-wrapped dates and the paella de mariscos, I was on my own. The former were fine, though the bacon was a little crunchy. The latter was impressive in that the calamari, the mussels, the shrimp, the lobster—it all came out perfectly. Here again, though, the dish’s lack of spicing made it a little one-note. It was, like a lot of the food we had already eaten that night, a dish that was at once hard to fault and hard to praise.
So when our desserts—cute, miniature profiteroles and crème caramel—arrived, and I asked Andrew for his general impression of the place, I wasn’t surprised with his answer. He said he loved the service and it seemed like a good place to visit “after you’ve had a drink and need a snack.”
I’m not going to worry about how the kid knows what it’s like to need a snack after a drink. That’s not really the point. The point is, I couldn’t have said it better myself.