Oloroso, an authentic Spanish restaurant by renowned local chef Townsend Wentz, delivers tapas, sherry and a virtual culinary trip to Madrid without the airfare.
Named for a dark, fragrant style of sherry, Oloroso offers a varied selection of tapas, mid courses and mains that reflect the cuisine of España.
Our quartet began our meal with a glass of fino sherry — the clean, dry cousin of oloroso, which is the ideal start to a meal. A variety of cocktails featuring interesting combos such as ginger and bell pepper juice briefly tempted us, but we stuck with the wine.
A note on the food: Oloroso is not kosher in the least; Spanish food relies heavily on shellfish and pork, but there are many options suitable for “kosher-style” diners.
The restaurant offers a comprehensive list of Spanish cheeses; we sampled a pungent-but-not-too-much-so blue that was accompanied by sliced Bosc pears and green olives.
Bacalao (salted cod) croquetas were authentic and delicious. These heavenly orbs housed a generous amount of salt cod, ensconced in mashed potato, coated with a crispy breading and topped with garlic aioli.
The blistered peppers were the ideal share; we ended up ordering a second portion. The Gernika peppers, indigenous to the Basque region of Spain, were flavorful without being overly spicy.
We also enjoyed the marinated tuna, served raw, and chopped with fresno chili, citrus and tomatoes. The patatas bravas redefine what we think of as a tater tot. These crisp nuggets were topped with a fresh, spicy tomato sauce, saffron aioli and Manchego cheese.
For our next course, we enjoyed two dishes. The lamb shoulder was braised to fork-tender fall-apart perfection and served with farro, cocoa and hazelnut. The barramundi was grilled — crisp, tender and juicy — and served atop a pesto-like puree of vegetables with some nicely sauced potato slices.
Our server was well versed in Spanish wines, and guided us to a Tempranillo that she aptly described as “akin to a Chateuneuf de Papes.”
We ordered two desserts to share. The churros — classic fried donuts with cinnamon and sugar — were the best version I’ve had in a while. The chocolate sauce lightly spiced with smoky chili elevated the perfectly fried churros.
The soft-serve vanilla ice cream was offered on the menu with Valencia orange syrup, but we balked at the Creamsicle vibe. The server said the chef makes an alternative with chocolate and coconut, and we opted for that version. It was spectacular, if a tad melty. It did not last long enough for it to be a problem.
Oloroso is located at 1121 Walnut St. in Philadelphia. The phone number is 267-324-3104. It is open daily from 5 p.m. until midnight.