“Star light, star bright,
first star I see tonight.
I wish I may, I wish I might,
have the wish, I wish tonight.
We’ll make a wish, and do as dreamers do,
and all our wishes (all our wishes),
will come true.”
Sometimes I think places get good writeups just because people really want to like them. The place is cute, the waiter is friendly, the prices are fair, the idea is a winner…who doesn’t like good Spanish tapas? And, El Dorinda, Guatemala 4487 in Palermo, 4897-2010, has all that. And I really want to give them a good writeup, because of all that. But, and let’s soft soap it a bit here, we just didn’t find ourselves excited about the food. Okay, let’s not soft soap it, the food is average, at best, teetering close to mediocre. Now, I’ll admit that we didn’t try the much ballyhooed empanada gallega, mostly because I hadn’t seen it ballyhooed until after the fact. But let’s take a look at what we did try….
We tried a trio of the pintxos, the Basque name for tapas. Now, I love good finger good. And the ideas here were interesting – even the execution was decent – the letdown was simply the quality of the ingredients. When half of the item you’re sticking in your mouth is the bread, you’ve got to use good bread – this was basic, cottony white bread, not even toasted, just sliced and topped, so right there the toppings have to do a whole lot of work to overcome the bottom half of the dish. Unfortunately, they don’t. The broccoli pate with peppers and walnuts might have, had the pate been seasoned, the walnuts toaste or the peppers roasted; the morcilla with quali egg and peppers, the same problem with the peppers, though the morcilla was fine, if just a couple of warmed slices of a commercial sausage; and the waiter’s enthusiastically recommended jamón crudo (cured ham) with olive oil packed sun-dried tomatoes might have even worked had we gotten that rather than the ham served up with arugula and cherry tomatoes and no seasoning.
We moved on to the tapas listing and tried the croquetas bravas, described by our waiter as spinach and chicken croquettes served like papas bravas, with a spicy tomato sauce. The croquettes, flavorful I’ll admit, simply fell apart when we tried to pick them up, I’m not sure how they tried to bind them, but it didn’t work, and the sauce, despite the waiter’s protestations to the contrary, wouldn’t have been found spicy by even the most timid porteña in the city. He did say that had some dried chili flakes in the kitchen if we wanted some….
“Guacamole con nachos” just showed a bit of the menu confusion (there are quite a few non-Spanish dishes throughout the menu) – beyond not understanding that salt-laden commercial corn chips out of the bag do not constitute nachos on their own, they were, well, salt-laden commercial corn chips out of the bag. The guacamole, at least, was fresh, though to the best we could tell consisted of nothing but mashed avocado. Really, nothing but.
And we finished up with a couple of the seafood dishes, the chipirones salteado al pil-pil being perfectly respectable sauteed baby squid, however, pil-pil is a Basque preparation (in this case, versus the Chilean version of the same dish) of olive oil infused with garlic and small, fiery guindilla peppers – here, reproduced with a minimal amount of chopped and browned garlic, and no chilies at all, of any sort; and the mejillones en salsa verde, which again were quite respectable mussels, though the green sauce suffered from a lack of seasoning, being little more than coarsely chopped parsley, a little garlic, and lots of olive oil.
We decided, at this point, not to continue with more dishes. The trend was clear, lack of seasoning and little understanding of the traditional dishes – or perhaps the preparation is just a nod to the perception of local palates as not being able to handle anything spicier than salt and has been dumbed down. At some point, given the success of restaurants that actually do serve well-spiced food in this city, you’d think that some of the newer chefs, at least, would get that they really can ramp up the flavors and not offend their customers. Because, like I said, this place is cute, the waiter was friendly, the prices are fair (had the food been better) and it has a great idea. And I really want to like it.