In celebration of a friend’s birthday and birthday month, a few girls and I decided to participate in a progressive dinner in the Carmel Arts & Design District. After a few sips of wine at Shiraz, we walked our way down the street towards Sonata, one of the newer restaurants in the area. We were excited to share a few tapas while continuing great conversation and company.
Walking into the restaurant, we were warmly greeted by the hostess. The main floor of the restaurant was empty on this particular Wednesday evening, but it was pretty easy to imagine people lounging at the tables with a coffee in hand. A casual environment, there was a coffee bar and counter that had bakery items available for purchase. Art adorned the walls, though I didn’t get a very warm fuzzy vibe. More of a casual, clean and simple feel of a Spanish cafe. The hostess grabbed a few menus and we walked through this area to the stairs to head our way up to the second floor. Upstairs, there was a larger group (also celebrating a birthday) enjoying their evening, a full bar with several seats open for patrons, and a table of six seats perfect for our group.
After ordering a round of sangria, beer, and one whiskey old fashioned for me, we settled on a few plates for our first round. We began with (starting left and moving clockwise) empanadas, brick vegetariano, and hummus. The empanadas were stuffed with gouda and sweet corn. A crisp exterior, the empanada was served with a simple concasse sauce – which really is a red marinara sauce. Overall, it was crisp and tasty, though a bit dry in the contents for me as I couldn’t taste much from the gouda. The brick vegetariano was delicious: layers of vegetables and phyllo covered with a concasse sauce once again. The mozzarella between the layers melted beautifully tying in the perfect level of salt to the dish among the crisp phyllo. I really enjoyed every bit. The edamame hummus was creamy in texture and subtle in flavor. I did enjoy it, but the brick won my heart in the first round.
Second round had us focused on the bread basket. We ordered a few breads to compare, all different in their own way. From the top moving clockwise, we ordered goya, monet, and giotto. The goya was a portabello mushroom on top of a toasted ciabatta type of bread, slathered with herbed goat cheese. Goat cheese goes a long way in my book, especially with some marinara. The mushroom was tender and rustic in flavor, but really I was loving up on the goat cheese. Carrying on with the goat love, the monet was the same bread vehicle slathered in the herbed goat cheese, but this time topped with a bacon jam. Per the menu description, it was a tampenade. Per my taste buds, it was sweet, salty, and savory. I wanted a bit more out of it, but it was still good. Just my least fave of the bunch. Finally, the giotto was fantastic all because of the balsamic glaze that adorned the bread. Under the savory glaze were sauteed leeks, onions, and garlic. It was missing asparagus (and the server noticed this, taking off some money to make up for it), but to be honest, I really didn’t miss it as I enjoyed all the flavors melting together with each bite. I enjoyed all three though I think the goya and giotto may have slightly bat out the monet.
Our final round has us munching on four plates. Beginning on the right and moving clockwise, we began with the gambas, which are essentially deep fried shrimp. The shrimp are somehow stuffed with cream cheese before battered in a corn flake crust and deep fried. They were then served with this intense raspberry sauce. It was too sweet for me, though I could see how one may really love all the flavors. The shrimp was lost in flavor though as the raspberry was the dominate flavor. We also had the dedo de poll: goat cheese stuffed chicken wrapped in bacon. The chicken was tender with mild taste of goat cheese and the bacon was crisp, but I really enjoyed the slightly spicy sauce on top. Chunks of apples gave it a slight sweetness which balanced the sweet & spicy contrast nicely.
Next up was the gnocchi con gambas, or pasta with shrimp. Gnocchi is a dense, potato pasta and these were tender and cooked well. Once again, the marinara is very clean and has good, simple flavors. I wasn’t blown away though. It is definitely a simple yet good dish, I was looking for something a bit more extravagant that evening. I didn’t get that extravagance with the croquetas de jamon either, though I did enjoy popping these little fried pieces of deliciousness in my mouth. Simple, but yum. a mixture of ham and bechamel cheese is always great. When you fry them up croquete style, that fried and crispy crust always ties them well.
With drink, prior to gratuity, total bill was $24 per person. Not bad when you have a plethora of food to select from. Service was good and I really enjoyed the relaxed environment. We definitely were all full as we had bites of everything around the table. It is good to note that a few things are capable of being added onto if you have a larger group. For instance, we ordered additional gambas to ensure we all one to taste for a few dollars more. I’ll be returning with a group, because that is the best way to do tapas!
I also have to apologize. I’ve been absent due to traveling and catching up with life. And unfortunately, during professional dinners, taking photos isn’t usually a top priority. I may be critiquing in my head, but just not in a picture. BUT, I’ll be making it up to you come the 21st. They’ll be a give away for some delicious food. Why the 21st? Well, I’m traveling again…stay tuned…and thanks for being a reader and contributor!
Sonata Cafe, Bar & Art * 31 east main street * carmel, 46032 * 317.844.5551