La Viva Tapas Bar, CHIJMES
I noticed this place (CHIJMES #01-12, 6488-1270) a while back and had been meaning to check it out, and finally got the chance to tonight (it replaced the old Ocho). I sat down and got my usual Spanish favorites, including a glass of sangria, gazpacho soup, and chorizo in one form or another. The sangria was refreshing, but the gazpacho gave a pretty good indicator for what was to come though. Filled a bit too excessively with croutons and the like, the soup was one of the thickest that I'd had. It was fresh, but it could have been better.
The rest of the dishes also were a bit strange. The gambas con ajo was done up spicy red, almost like a Chinese-style shrimp. Similarly, the cabbage & chorizo almost seemed like Chinese sauteed cabbage with slices of chorizo in it. Still, I have to admit that I ate these pretty quickly.
Perhaps the only really interesting (and not necessarily in a good way) item I had tonight was the so-called "sangria chorizo." What is that, you might ask? As the menu put it, it was "Fresh chorizo sausage marinated in sangria and pan-fried. Our specialty." Marinated in sangria? (Hmmm...) Well, despite being pan-fried (to a much darker state than I would have thought, mind you), the sausages still tasted very heavily of sangria and were even a bit sweet as a result. Eh...not for me, thanks. I like chorizo because of the fat salty character, and this went the other way.
So basically while this stuff was edible, my choice is still Via Mar by far. La Viva reminded me a bit of tapas bars back home: the ho-hum food never really "did it" for me, and I could never really see what all the fuss was about with Spanish food as a result (until I went to Spain for myself, thus changing my perspective forever). It's too bad...I wanted to try this place's paella too, but now I'm not going to bother anymore. At least it still beats the pants off that nasty Eau La La place.