Saturday, June 26, 2010

25th Birthday Celebration, Part I: Dali Restaurant & Tapas Bar

Well, I can finally rent a car! I turned 25 yesterday, and a few of us went out to dinner at Dali to kick off the celebration.

Dali is located right in the corner of awesomeness within the no-man's-land between Harvard Square and Inman Square. (Neighbors include Bergamot in EVOO's former spot, The Wine and Cheese Cask, and The Kebab Factory.) When we walked in, I felt like I was entering a festive, heavily decorated cave with sangria waterfalls flowing freely. The sangria waterfalls only exist in my head, but Dali's interior is beautiful and welcoming. 

The servers at Dali are completely and genuinely warm and friendly, and they mix in a little Spanish when they speak to you, seemingly appreciating any mangled attempts to respond in Spanish. Our waitress was attentive, and we were impressed by her extraordinary patience as she carefully prepared my glass of absinthe, setting the sugar on fire and waiting for it to slowly drip into the alcohol below, and then adding ice water to the mix after the flames burned out. This is a variation on the "Bohemian method" (read: modern, flashy, and totally historically inaccurate) of preparing absinthe, where the burning sugar cube (which is soaked in alcohol prior to being set aflame) is dropped into the absinthe, producing a stronger drink. When the flames are allowed to burn out, as in the "Flaming Green Fairy" method practiced at Dali, nearly all of the alcohol on the sugar cube is removed. Another preparation - the "French method" - does not involve fire. (Much less fun, I'd think. However, bartenders should be careful when playing with fire. Perhaps you've heard about the recent arrest of bartender Albert Trummer at New York's Apotheke bar. Interestingly enough, fire marshals aren't really into bartenders setting the top of the bar on fire.)

absinthe fixes everything by Tony Delgrosso
Regardless of the method of preparation, the mixing of water and absinthe causes the liquid to change from clear or green to a milky white. This cloudy solution is called the louche, and it's a result of the non-water-soluble components of the absinthe, including anise and fennel, falling out of solution when the water is added. Read more about absinthe preparation here (note: a video autoplays on that page.)

We also got some cava sangria for the table: light, fruity, and fun. Later, we realized we totally missed out on an even more exciting drink, though. The happy, rowdy table behind us was passing around a communal drinking vessel called a porron, sharing white wine and probably a healthy dose of mononucleosis.  Actually, the vessel is designed in a way that the liquid can be poured from the spout through the air and into the mouth, so no one ever actually has to put his or her mouth directly on the container.

El misteri dels porrons by Oriol Llado
Let's see if I can remember everything we ate...

Tortilla Española: Dan ate this one. I'm not sure how it was, but I think he finished it and enjoyed it. It was much thicker than other Tortilla Españolas that I've seen - it looked like a giant slice of pie, but made of scrambled eggs, potato, and onions.

Gazpacho: A classic summer soup, served cold. We all enjoyed this refreshing chunky tomato and onion combo.

Gambas al Ajillo: One of my favorites! It's a simple dish of small shrimp sauteed in a whole lot of oil and a whole lot of garlic. Although it tasted great, it was about half the size and $1.50 more expensive than the same dish over at Tasca, a tapas restaurant in my neck of the woods.

Pincho Royal: It's a rule: wrapping anything in bacon makes it ten times better. This bacon-wrapped shrimp dish was no exception.

Ravioles de Mariscos: Rich, filling lobster and crabmeat ravioli in a rich, filling Langostino sauce

Chorizo a la Plancha: Simple grilled sausage. Yum!

Caldereta Genoveva: Whoa. This was ridiculous. Our vegetarian friend recommended it - he was compelled to try it once, despite the lamb, and he now recommends it to all his meat-eating friends. This is a braised lamb dish in a brown curry-like sauce embellished with almonds and mint essence. The mint gives it such a unique flavor. You must try this.

We finished off the meal with a dessert special that consisted of fried strawberries and ice cream in some sort of sweet, creamy sauce. Fried strawberries are kind of cool, but I think I like them better fresh and unfried.

Of course, there was also the obligatory (and awesome) birthday song. Dali is really into birthdays, and mine was one of three that night. They turn off and/or flicker the lights and come out singing, shooting bubbles with a bubble gun. They placed a huge frog-shaped candle holder in front of me, and I got to make a wish.

Dali was the perfect place to start off the birthday debauchery. Although the interior of Dali is romantic and intimate, it does get rather loud; it's a fun place for groups celebrating birthdays and other occasions. The communal drinks definitely encourage this atmosphere.

After dinner, we walked down the street to The Thirsty Scholar Pub (caution: music autoplays) for some beer and met up with more friends. Thirsty Scholar is nice - especially this time of year - because there are almost always tables available, and the noise level isn't too obnoxious.

Then, we went back to Joel's place and combined forces with Andy and Casey's goodbye party. Andy, Joel's roommate and our bassist in The Bowties, is heading to med school. At this point, the night devolved into a whiskey-drinking jam session with The Bowties and friends. Our whiskey of choice was Georgia Moon, a cheap, clear moonshine-style corn whiskey sold in a mason jar. A Guatemalan friend of Andy's commented that it tasted like guado, the alcohol her "grandparents sold to alcoholics in little plastic bags fifteen times a day."

Appropriately enough, we rocked out to Moonshiner, a traditional folk song that's been popularized by Bob Dylan and others.

Dalí on Urbanspoon

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