LOLAILO THE ORIGINAL
7637 Turkey Lake Road | 407-730-8948 | lolailo.com | $$$$
Henry Salgado’s Txokos Basque Kitchen may be generating most of the buzz as far as Spanish cuisine in this city is concerned, but there’s an inviting resto on the other side of town that deserves to share some of the spotlight. Its name is Lolailo – a term used to describe street/gypsy culture in Spain – and its specialty is Galician cuisine. In fact many items, from the pan to the pulpo, are imported from owner Rosa Mengual’s native Galicia. Yes, Lolailo’s carbon footprint is large, but so are the flavors in many of the dishes.
The restaurant sits in the space formerly occupied by Rice Paper, and if you were a regular to that Vietnamese restaurant, you’d barely recognize the space. There are three distinct rooms now: “Granada,” the main dining area with a mural of the Alhambra as its centerpiece; “Galicia,” a quaint room with walls of light blue; and “Madrid,” highlighted by a curved bar dressed in copper and underscored by a stunning Victoria Arduino double-lever espresso machine also dressed in copper. It’s this room where patrons can enjoy libations and complimentary tapas, just as they would in the Spanish capital.
Soon after being seated in the Granada Room – right in front of the stage, where a flamenco dancer performed – we sipped on our albarinos ($10) and tempranillos ($13) and enjoyed some heavenly Galician bread. Menu descriptions are terse, but our server was more than willing to describe the dishes in detail. Paellas were noticeably absent (turns out they only serve them during Sunday brunch), and that suited us just fine. The tapas plate of pulpo a la brasa ($20), or grilled octopus, is what caught our eye. Flown in from the cold waters off the Galician coast, the tender, paprika-sprinkled cylinders of octopus were instantly memorable. They were laid over a mashed potato puree whose purpose seemed more aesthetic than anything else. We liked the look of the plump red piquillo peppers ($14), but liked their flavors even more. The roasted sweet peppers came stuffed with cod and cream and drizzled with a light sauce of olive oil and parsley. A third tapas plate of lamb-stuffed croquettes ($7) had us scratching our heads, as there was no visible indication of any meat in the stuffing. Biting into another doughy croquette, I did see a miniscule dot of what I perceived to be lamb (we were told it was very finely minced), but I still wasn’t entirely sure.
So the only thing to do to satisfy our ruminant craving was to order the grilled lamb chops ($28) – and they were perfect. The chops were strategically laid atop a heap of au gratin potatoes, accompanied by a wonderful sauce fashioned from ham, mushrooms and rosemary. Merluza ($40), an Atlantic haddock flecked with paprika and roasted garlic, was firm and flaky, but it appeared as though air freight charges were rolled into the cost of the fish. That didn’t stop us from savoring every (expensive) bite, however.
A costly but classy ending can be found in the “elogio al vino” ($12), an intriguing dessert intended to honor Spain’s wine culture consisting of a red wine reduction, caramel custard, ice cream, grapes and rose petals served in a wine glass. No doubt, a meal at Lolailo will put a dent in your wallet, but the Spanish food here falls mainly on the plain – plain terrific, that is.