Iberia via Narragansett
By BILL RODRIGUEZ  |  September 30, 2009

It's not even 6 pm and the parking lot is packed. We're on a remote road in Narragansett way past Labor Day, so hungry passing vacationers aren't a factor. Before we even walk in and I look around, noticing that a vast upstairs dining area is as well occupied as the one on the ground floor, we can see that Spain is quite the popular restaurant.

The sea air seclusion, unlike at the equally popular original Cranston location, is appropriate. After all, they do want to whisk you away to the balmy Mediterranean. The many tables on the patio, surrounding a fountain, attest to that. Although it was a crisp autumn evening when we arrived, there were couples in the courtyard settling for basking in the glow of a woodfired corner fireplace. There's even a sunset peach glow to the stucco, in contrast to the beige up north.

Within, they continue the illusion. An arboretum-worth of palms, fichus, and such make certain that greenery is always in view. Tiered mini-shrubs on a travertine column here, white hydrangea in a corner there, even a carpet pattern of leafy vines. I expected to hear the snip-snip of garden shears.

Led to a downstairs table, bracketed by arched colonnades and gilt-framed photographs of Spanish postcard sights, the elegance continued. After being seated by our hostess, we were attended by no fewer than three others, black bowties cuing expectations. Our assigned "captain" all but clicked his heels with formal politeness and took our orders. I got into it, and eventually was hoping for someone to dab the corners of my mouth with my napkin.

Except for the garlic shrimp and grilled chorizo, the appetizer choices were not particularly Iberian -- muscles or clams in your choice of marinara or white wine sauce, stuffed mushroom caps and stuffed artichoke hearts. All $8 to $10. So I wanted to see what they would do with calamari, which they likely put on the menu ages ago after tiring of hearing Rhode Islanders ask for it. It was pretty much the traditional version, the breaded squid rings tender and greaseless, tossed with hot pepper rings but also marinated carrot slices, a tangy touch. All worked nicely together.

Johnnie had the Picasso salad ($7), a pleasant arrangement of red and green lettuce and endive, filled out with avocado, artichoke heart and red onion, and tossed with a tart balsamic vinaigrette. I had to have a bowl of their garlic soup, with its chicken broth and tomato base, which I had much enjoyed on a prior visit. Slightly hot from occasional slices of fresh garlic and speckled with eggdrops, it was hearty and sweet from the roasted garlic. Our accompanying friend had the gazpacho, the cold soup even more tomatoey than mine, and with a lemony snap. He prefers the vegetables pureed, but nevertheless purred that it "tastes like spring or early summer." I prefer the bell peppers coarsely diced, as they were here. The third soup offered is black bean with smoked ham. They are all $5.

Jerry tends to have paella in a Spanish restaurant, dreaming of his last feast in the country. As is usual, their paella Valenciana ($36) serves two. Perhaps it was fear that his whimper would turn into a whine, but our captain all but saluted smartly as he said the dish could be prepared for one ($21). A half-lobster and every other seafood you could name, short of sea urchin, plus chicken and chorizo, all over saffron rice. He was well pleased.

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  Topics: Restaurant Reviews , Spain, Spain, Spain,  More more >
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