Friday, October 14, 2005

Trying To Find Happiness At Happy Hour: Olé Tapas Bar, Studio City

It's obvious that people are starting to lose it at the office. And for good reason, I guess. I mean, no one in their right mind likes to get fired, right? Our new parent company tells us that if we want to relocate, that there are great opportunities ahead for us, and that oh by the way, everyone has to re-interview for these opportunities. It's caused a bit of an oddly chaotic atmosphere at work, one that is interesting to observe at the same time: it's like watching all the dumb-ass worker ants scurry in different directions when someone takes the food away that they were all marching blindly towards. Some of these "ants", however, are certainly taking it better than others, depending on what kinds of things they have going on in their lives...or in their heads. Some people, for example, have families or mortgages they have to take care of, so they're rightfully more anxious about not getting to the point where the unemployment checks roll in. Then there are those who don't have a care in the world--like maybe they're young or live with mommy and daddy--and are looking forward to getting their severance package so they can take an extended vacation. Then there's me who doesn't have any loyalty to this company so could care less if I blatantly talk to potential employers over the phone from my own office, and who doesn't have any huge obligations like a family or a mortgage yet, but am getting closer to stuff like that as I'm getting married soon, and is viewing this whole thing as a huge inconvenience. Then there are people like my coworker who have obligations but not necessarily any financial worries, have been with the company for like 15 years and who were so blind as to think that something like this would never happen, and who have never so much as talked to any outside potential employers since they got hired, have not updated their resume in 15 years, and are shitting bricks that now they have to enter the job market again. There are people like this that I normally would not hang out with on a regular basis at lunch because they ride the corporate high-horse, but that I would have to babysit on a weekday night after work over happy hour because they were too stressed out to go home.

And so that's how my friend and I ended up at Olé Tapas Bar in Studio City a couple of nights ago with our other coworker who wanted to freak out over tapas and sangria. It was quite a cute space that we walked into--sleek, dark wood tables,
West Elm-ish modular shelving with strategically placed fickering candle votives used as space dividers, plush red ultra-suede ottomans, murals of Spanish matadors on the walls painted in golds, browns and reds to tie in the color theme. We were lucky enough to snag one of the ottoman seating areas as it was still early, an option that would allow us to stretch out a little more, maybe allow my coworker to relax a little faster which would have been beneficial to all of us at that point.

I was originally just going to go with a single glass of red sangria--my coworker obviously needed a tad more than one--but was somehow convinced that a pitcher split amongst the three of us would be more economical and beneficial. Allright sure. A few short minutes later and our pitcher arrived, filled to the top with the ruby red drink, but also filled at least 3/4 full with ice. I also immediately noticed that it was just a little too easy to see through the red liquid. It apparently lacked any sort of opacity--I could see straight on through to the other side, not even any chunks of alcohol soaked fruit to block my vision. We poured this highly transluscent concoction into our glasses which were each garnished with a skewer of fruit, and upon first sip, I could taste its transluscense--totally watered down, bo body whatsoever. My one intended glass soon became three, yet I felt no buzz at all. Twenty-four bucks for grape Kool-Aid is a rip off, dontcha think? The gratis green olives they brought us were good--nice and salty, but not too salty--but weren't good enough to make up for this sorry, watered down excuse for sangria.

"Crystal clear" should never be used to describe sangria

Olé redeemed itself slightly with its twelve-dollar Placa Caliente, a sampling of four of their popular hot tapas all arranged on a white square platter with sauce squiggles and such. The Queso de Cabra Frito con Miel, or fried goat cheese with honey, were quite good, its breaded sweet outer crust contrasting nicely with the soft, pungent tasting balls of goat cheese. Roasted potatoes with aioli is probably an all time favorite comfort food of mine, so it was no surprise that I did also particularly enjoy our Patatas Bravas. The chunks of potato were full of that salty, roasted flavor and tasted even better when given a few swipes of the creamy garlicky aioli. A few slivers of caramelized onions added some interest, as well as a few strips of Serrano ham, which I didn't particularly care for here, as they charred the hell out of it making it too crispy whereas they should have left some of the fat intact on it. Our Setas Y Alcachofas, or sauteed mushrooms and artichokes were simple, sauteed in an oniony sauce, nothing out of this world but were still good. Least impressive was the fried calamari, or Calamar Vasco, which were nicely battered, but were served with a red chili garlic sauce, a sauce which one can normally find at the Asian grocery store next to the Sriracha. I guess it was OK, but its Asian flavors just did not go with all the other Mediterranean flavors on the platter. There was a little bonus on our platter, a small mound of caramelized, pickled onions in the center of our four tapas that were soft, a little sweet, a little tangy, and really good to snack on.

This Placa Caliente made this happier hour slightly happier

I noticed that the restaurant's website advertises a happy hour that runs from 5-7 pm Mondays thru Fridays though we never got any menu or any mention from our server of happy hour specials. This happy hour, to me, was not so happy. I think that I would have been a little more happy had we not spent so much on watered down sangria, or if plain and simply the sangria had been made properly. But not everything's about me. To my stressed-out coworker, this happy hour was indeed happy. In two hours, over watered-down sangria and a plate of decent tapas, we had managed to let her ramble and be self centered and whatever the hell else she wanted to be, calming her down in the hopes that maybe she wouldn't be stressing us out with her stress over the next few days. OK, that's happiness in itself.

Olé Tapas Bar
13251 Ventura Blvd.
Studio City, CA 91604
(818) 986-3190


elmomonster said...

Same type of s*** is going on at my company...jittery nerves, people jumping ship...

Only difference is, if we want our jobs, we'd have to relocate to India.

Daily Gluttony said...


I take it you're not moving to India? But why not? The food's prolly really good...LOL! just kidding!

elmomonster said...

Oh I'd love the food there...

but as Elaine in Seinfeld said:

"The heat! My god! The heat!"