Sunday, April 22, 2012

Tasca Restaurant

Tasca on Commonwealth Ave. in Brighton is a rare gem. First of all, Brighton is not exactly known for its cuisine, let alone a great tapas place. Tasca sits near the ugly grey corner of Washington St., surrounded by run down apartment buildings. The street constantly hears the squeaking of the B line, arguably Boston’s worst train.

Inside, however, is a charming space consistently packed to the brim with the young professionals that populate this neighborhood for a year or two after BU or BC graduation. The entry has a few booths and a small bar (small as in four stools), and the small main dining room has so many tables that the mind boggles. Prepare to get cozy with your neighbor. The walls have stock paintings of Spain’s vistas and city streets, and everything is very low key and no frills.

Except for the food. Each table starts out with bread, olives, and a garlicky tapenade. While my date enjoys the olives, I go to town on the tapenade. We order a $5 pitcher of blood orange sangria that is worth twice that much, and peruse the stimulus menu.

Here’s where Tasca is really amazing. At the end of the meal, they ask you to fill out a short comment card. With this, they strive to improve their service as well as offer you deals with a weekly e-mail newsletter. In it there are deals for sangria, wine, and the legendary stimulus menu (3 courses, $18). There are also announcements for Neighborhood Nights, flamenco nights, and the like.

I should admit that I’ve only had tapas here once or twice. We always order from the stimulus. It’s economical and consistently delicious. We come every few months, for dates or birthdays, visiting parents or holidays. It is plain and simply our designated spot. And why shouldn’t it be? If we each order from the stimulus and share a pitcher of sangria, each of us is only paying $20.50 plus tip! Not too bad for amazing food and drink in this very expensive city.

Now back to the important stuff: the food. I started with the butternut squash soup with roasted apples and toasted walnuts, while my man had organic field greens with apple, bleu cheese, and toasted walnuts in a Rioja vinaigrette. Only just now, as I wrote that, did I see how similar our appetizers sounded despite tasting worlds away differently. I order the soup every time it’s on the menu, because it’s the creamiest, most magnificent thing I can think of to start my meal off. I moved on to a baked crusted filet of New England haddock over scallion mashed potatoes in a shallot white wine sauce, served with sauteed spinach. The potatoes were to die for, and my attempt to eat healthier by ordering fish was well rewarded. Perhaps the cream sauce didn’t assist in the health department, but its flavor was worth it.

The boyfriend had chicken braised with Moroccan spices, mango, and raisins, served along with cumin scented rice. I tried a few bites, deemed it delicious, but quickly returned to my own meal. He followed that up with the cranberry apple pie, and I got my favorite dessert of tiramisu. I really couldn’t ask for more.

Tasca is great for a casual dinner after work, a large party of revelers, and even a nice date night. The waitstaff is always a bit cold, but that’s never bothered me because they’re also great at their jobs; I’ve never had a single issue, and I’ve been there more times than I can count. The same goes for the kitchen; never have I, or anyone I’ve eaten there with, complained about a meal.

Just go, quickly, and eat well on the cheap!
1612 Commonwealth Ave., Brighton MA

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