Like the famed literary temptress of the same name , the Back Bay’s newest restaurant, Lolita, has a lot to offer. . . and a lot to learn. Let’s start with the positives. The food is fantastic. The décor is fabulous, sexy, dark, with lots of red and black, candles and red roses everywhere. Located in the subterranean space once occupied by Papparazzi, a step down into Lolita is truly like going underground. It is a far cry from its former resident, and seemingly the perfect place for a great date night.
After a very friendly welcome, we were seated in a long, narrow area, all by ourselves next to this rusty wrought iron fence. Our initial thoughts were that we were in love with this restaurant.
Before we got our menus or anything else, our server brought a complimentary grapefruit granita which she topped with a shot of tequila. Surrounded by dry ice, the granita was quite a spectacle. We each had a bite, but the bitter grapefruit combined with tequila just wasn’t for us.
Once we had our menus, we took awhile to decide on drinks. The list at Lolita is extensive; they have over 200 tequilas, plus Sangria, cocktails, wine, and beer. Always a lover of spicy drinks, I ordered the diablo margarita, a drink that combined lunazul reposado, luxardo triplum, serrano chile, blood orange, pineapple, and strawberry. Note that Lolita serves margaritas by the glass and by the pitcher, making it a fun option for groups.
Topped with a lime and jalapenos and rimmed with sugar and pepper, the drink was tasty but not at all spicy as I had hoped. My favorite spicy drink is a Bone at Drink, and I was expecting this to have a little bit of heat at the very least.
Prior to our meal, we were also served complimentary chips and three salsas, including a salsa crema with a hint of chipotle. Give me chips and salsa, and I am a happy girl. Give me three different salsas, and I am in love.
The chips were fresh, hot, and salty, just the way I like them. We had multiple rounds of this salsa trio; the salsa verde and salsa crema were particularly delicious. I am a fan and will return to Lolita just for chips and to try another one of their creative cocktails.
Along with the chips, we received a bottle of the house made habanero and mango hot sauce. We were warned that is was spicy and to use it sparingly. It was less spicy than medium, store-bought salsa. I am a fan of super spicy foods, but even my Ireland-raised husband (where they think ketchup is spicy), thought it was just fine. Good, but not spicy.
The menu at Lolita has a TON of great options. As we often do, we decided to order a few things and to keep a menu in case we needed more. When I was browsing Lolita’s online menu, I was drooling over their variety of guacamoles, including one with bacon and another with lobster.
Being a spice fiend, I went with the picante with hell’s chile oil and fresh hot green chilies. It was very nice guacamole, but again, not a bit spicy. Not even with the flavor of chilies. We enjoyed it, but commented that I could have easily made something kickier at home.
Our main courses were the ancho chile chicken tacos, which claimed to come with black beans and corn but didn’t, and marisco quesadillas with shrimp & scallops, onion-poblano chile rajas & fresh salsa. The chicken was incredibly tender and flavorful, and the quesadillas were stuffed with seafood, cooked to perfection. This chef is certainly on it; we loved the food and wanted more. My only criticism of the food is that if something claims to be spicy, please bring it on. Next time, I will order extra spicy with hopes for a little more of a kick.
Now for the negatives. As I mentioned earlier, the night started out perfectly. We had nice table, strong cocktails, and chips and salsa. Unfortunately, the ambiance went downhill from there. Not long after we sat down, the only diners in our section of many tables, the hostess seated another couple RIGHT NEXT TO US, at a perpendicular table so that when the man in the couple sat down, I could barely get out of my seat.
MAJOR no no in my book. There were about 12 empty tables, and suddenly, servers couldn’t get past because we were so tightly squished together. It would have been one thing if it was a crowded Saturday night, but on an empty Sunday? Not okay. A few minutes later, another couple was seated on the other side of us, literally making it difficult for me to get out of my chair. Understandably, we all needed to be in one section, but even staggering us a table or two apart would have been the thing to do.
On top of that, the service was just frenetic. We had a main waitress, but overall had maybe seven people running around in our section of three tables. Our food came out like gunfire, and we had finished our meal and paid in under 50 minutes. Perfect for fast food, but we felt like it was way too overbearing, claustrophobic really. I wanted to tell everyone to just go away for a few minutes.
After all of the rushing around and the constant asking if we were done, we were just ready to go. As we waited for our check, we were brought a giant, blue ball of cotton candy. It couldn’t have been more out of place in the atmosphere of the restaurant. Olive oil dark chocolate truffles, yes. Cotton candy? Not so much. Plus, since we didn’t order it, I wondered if it was something that multiple tables touched before we did? Probably not, but it was just so weird that I couldn’t go near it. Cotton candy is a trend that needs to die this very second.
My conclusion at the end of this very long post? Lolita has it going on, food-wise. It is only two weeks old and has some things to work out, but we will definitely be giving it another chance. There are far too many things on the menu that we need to try.