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Candela Tapas Lounge: A Night to Remember

Jan 21, 2014 02:22AM ● By Erin Frisch

You would be completely loco en la cabeza not to try this newest bar, restaurant, and lounge in downtown Hanover. Candela, which opened in June 2013, has been filled up every night since! I have only one warning about Candela book your reservation well in advance as this cozy, cool spot is sure to be popular every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. After a first attempt to walk in on a Saturday night (bad planning), we returned this time with a reservation for a party of 11 with big appetites. Here’s what we discovered, including the dishes that you must be sure to try when you visit.

The evening began with a lively welcome from Jimmy, the owner of Candela, who hops between his roles as host, sommelier of Spanish wines, and spontaneous server. Jimmy is passionate about his restaurant and shared with us his excitement about new customers and Candela’s growing popularity. His commitment to the highest quality and authenticity was evident in our tapas, without exception. And about those tapas! Our waiter (who cheerfully mopped up both glasses of water we spilled onto the sleek table) clearly wanted us to have the best tapas experience possible. As the adults sipped their sangria, mojitos, and Spanish wine samplings, our waiter advised us on ordering the proper amount of tapas for the table. Here again I will warn a hungry audience: Disregard what your waiter tells you and order as many tapas as you can. Your taste buds will thank you. Now, on to the feast.

Our first round of tapas was setas al pimento (peppered mushrooms). Served smoking with paprika in a terracotta ramekin, there were plenty of mushrooms to go around. We also enjoyed the lamb lollipops, which were so juicy and tender that they quickly become finger food. The arugula salad, topped with pungent blue cheese and grilled pineapple, was a fresh take and one of many highlights. I would have ordered another had our next tapas not come out first. The second round of tapas presented us with a beautiful bowl of vegetable and black-bean risotto, laden with colorful asparagus, peppers, mushrooms, and plantains. This dish was accompanied by the grilled flank steak with chimichurri sauce and thick slices of fried plantains. The rich risotto, all black and creamy, more than satisfied my vegetarian friend. There was plenty for each of us to have a generous scoop on our small tapas plates. The rest of us omnivores were fighting over the last bite of that delicious, juicy steak. Finally, the night ended with a bang—a silky caramel flan topped with thick whipped cream and a crunchy, clear caramel garnish. Right up next to it were the famous churros, large and fluffy, rolled in the traditional cinnamon sugar and accompanied by a non-traditional chili-chocolate dipping sauce. Let’s just say that by the end of it, we were eating the chocolate sauce with a spoon.

Five tapas and two dessert plates were scraped cleaned by the four of us girls at our table. While my 14-year old sister certainly could have managed the flank steak, fried plantains, and churros all by herself, we forced her to share. My father, at the next table, ordered three more tapas all for himself after their plates were cleared. So when debating whether or not to add that extra tapas to your order, keep in mind that we certainly could have handled a few more tapas at our table, no complaints. Portions are neither over- nor under-whelming, but you really should try everything. One plate I am eager to try on my next visit is the Mahon cheese board; Mahon, capital of Menorca, was one of the stops on my archaeological trip there this past summer. The island itself is famous for its cow’s milk cheese, which I can verify is incredible!

I would like to take a line to commend the Spanish way of serving and dining. The tapas way of life especially presents an opportunity for small portions with lots of flavor, sharing dishes with your loved ones, and long, relaxed mealtimes. Jimmy demonstrates commitment to this lifestyle with his service at Candela. Thank you, Jimmy, for allowing us here in the Upper Valley to experience this too. Candela is an oasis that reminds us that food is about flavor, satiety, and experience.

Candela Tapas Lounge is open Tuesday and Wednesday 5 to 10pm, Thursday through Saturday 5 to 10:30pm, and Sunday 5 to 10pm. Be sure to call ahead at (603) 277-9094 to book your reservation.

What was the most unexpected tapas dish you tried at Candela?

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