Casanovas, take note: I’ve got a recommendation for your next date. There’s a cozy little tapas place on Beacon Street called , with mustard-and-cobalt tiles gleaming under dim yellow lights. Ropes of garlic and chili peppers drape across the red-brick oven, like so many holiday garlands in Rockefeller Center.
Using your best Castilian Spanish, you’ll order seductive tapas like Codorniz al Xocolat, braised quail with a sauce made of cocoa, almonds, and hazelnuts, and meant to be shared, your fork accidentally clinking into your date’s as you both reach for seconds. The warmer months promise charming outdoor seating, but now, in December, the restaurant door sends in a crisp draft of chilly air each time it opens; your date will shiver and lean in a bit closer. This is food romance, a rhapsody of aroma and color and élan that enchants like nothing else.
The tapas offer bold, passionate flavors, evoking the soul of Spanish cuisine. Gambas al aijillo, shrimp in a pool of garlic and olive oil, shows off a sweet brininess reminiscent of mussels. We used bread to soak up every drop of that fruity olive oil, sparked with the spice of red pepper and bits of garlic mellowed from their turn in the pan.
Pisto is a house favorite, a mix of slow-cooked eggplant, onions, tomatoes, and peppers with a poached egg that's mixed in tableside to give the dish a velvety texture. Its round, smoky flavors are complemented by a glass of full-bodied red.
Order the queso de cabra for a slice of bread topped with a thick cake of snow-white goat cheese, flecked with oregano. Ours was pleasantly tangy and fresh, but would be better if served warm, as the menu describes. Or try the chorizo “butter,” a schmear of supremely tender, gently flavored chorizo on a slice of grilled bread.
Gallina en Pepitoria, hen cooked in a potent broth of sherry, saffron, almond, and jamon, was an uncharacteristic dud. We found unpalatably dry meat swimming in a far-too-salty broth, where the flavors were utterly commandeered by the salty jamon. We left it uneaten and pointed out the shortcomings to our waitress, who politely took note—but the dish was still on our tab at the end of the night.
If you really want to impress your date, you may need to do your wine research ahead of time. The wine list is a rather daunting, novella-sized catalogue with paragraphs on the 265 available wines, all Spanish. There are some tantalizing finds at all price ranges, from the 2009 Camino de Navaherros for $33, up to the 2006 Finca L’Ermita at $650. We let our server guide the way, ending up with a gentle and fruity Alberino that nicely complemented our tableful of tapas.
Desserts are perfect for sharing. A refreshing choice is a few slivers of hard Spanish cheese, paired with marcona almonds and a drizzle of honey, on the menu here as queso, miel y nueces. The pudin, a ramekin of chocolate pudding with the subtle flavor of a good Spanish sherry, was thick and rich.
This place, the kind of place that still feels like a tiny, well-kept secret, will sweep you off your feet when you walk in the door—just like a true Casanova.
Taberna de Haro is open Monday through Thursday 5:30-10pm; Friday and Saturday 5:30-11pm. 999 Beacon Street, Brookline. MBTA: Green Line (C) to St. Mary’s Street.