Sampling the variety of small plates at Solera

One of my favorite ways to dine out is with small plates. Having an opportunity to taste a wide variety of dishes from a single menu and share it with the table always delights me. And thanks to the opening of Solera last August, I can now indulge in my obsession whenever the whim strikes.

Located in the Southdowns Shopping Center, this Spanish tapas-inspired restaurant is split into two cozy dining rooms with plenty of natural light and a large bar area in between.

The tapas menu is divided into hot and cold options. Our knowledgeable server led us through the menu and explained that items arrive as they are ready, not in a particular order.

While there is a handful of entrees like seared scallops and a rack of lamb, we decided to go all in on the tapas.

Piquillos Rellenos consist of piquillo peppers stuffed with melted manchego and perched atop crostinis with a generous drizzle of honey.

On left: A spread of tapas from Solera.

On right: Pintxos Morunos features skewers of tender, spicy lamb and a pungent salsa verde.

First to arrive were the Piquillos Rellenos: piquillo peppers stuffed with melted manchego and set atop crostinis. A generous drizzle of honey added enough sweetness to temper the salt of the cheese, while the toast provided a mild delivery method to the soft pepper dish.

The Salmon Crudo arrived next, with thin slices of gin-cured salmon that were a bit too salty to fully enjoy.

Soon after came a high point, though: the warm fritters of chickpeas and mushrooms in the Croquetas de Garbanzos y Setas dish. The fried morsels were swimming in a quince sauce that was a surprising yet tasty accompaniment to the savory fritters. I fell in love with these medallions.

Put minced lamb on a skewer, and I swoon. And so, after the sugary sauce of the croquetas, the Pintxos Morunos hit the spot with tender, meaty, spicy lamb and a pungent salsa verde.

Patatas Bravas is always a must-order tapa, and Solera’s take didn’t disappoint. Large and crispy fried potato hunks were slathered with an addictive aioli and smoky tomato purée. These were a solid representation with one surprise on  our visit: white and purple potatoes.

Carne a la Plancha offered a coulotte or top sirloin cap as the cut of meat. The thinly sliced steak was cooked about medium rare and was quite tender. It was served with a romesco and salsa verde, but the presentation made the accompaniments seem almost like afterthoughts.

In the entrance space, a wall of wine bottles makes clear the restaurant is serious about its wine list and pairings.

Our final tapa of the evening wasn’t a hit. We thought the Ensalada de Pepino with cucumber and sherry vinaigrette would be a perfect palate cleanser before dessert, but it was bland and uninspired.

For dessert the night of our visit, Solera offered a light and lovely almond cake. The adequately sized slice was ever so slightly sweetened and enhanced with a dusting of powdered sugar. An airy and tender crumb made this a satisfying ending to an ample meal.

We found Solera to be inviting with tasty morsels and a well-curated Spanish-influenced wine list. The food came out quickly, but by the time we wanted to order additional items, the restaurant had filled and our server was often busy with other tables.

Given the wide-open reservations online, I imagined most patrons were walk-ins, and this overwhelmed the staff. But a crowded restaurant would never deter me from feeding my passion.

Perhaps next time I’ll resist filling up on tapas and actually try the entrees.

The basics: Opening in August 2019 in Southdowns Shopping Center, Solera brought the tapas craze back to Baton Rouge via the owners of Bin 77 Bistro & Sidebar. Executive chef Nick Puletti grew up traveling to Spain every other year, visiting family in Madrid. His menu splits tapas into hot and cold sections, while an entree section focuses on bigger portions like steak, scallops and even rack of lamb.

What’s a must: Piquillos Rellenos delivers tangy peppers stuffed with melted manchego and perched atop crostinis; Pintxos Morunos offers up tender, spicy lamb skewers with a bright salsa verde; and you can’t go wrong with Patatas Bravas—crispy chunks of fried potato slathered with aioli and smoky tomato purée. In the mood for a true group experience? Order the Paella for two to four persons.

Eat at Solera
4205 Perkins Road

Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
Sunday brunch, 10:30 a.m.-3 p.m.

Our food critic’s name may be false, but the credentials are not. This gastronome has studied the history, cultivation, preparation, science and technology of food for more than 30 years.

This article was originally posted in the February 2020 issue of 225 Magazine.