Doing authentic Spanish food in Bangkok, you’re immediately going to be compared to a very tightknit club: Tapas (and its sister Spanish on Four), Rioja and Tapas y Vino. And for all the hoopla about Hola having real Spanish owners, we feel this place, located in the basement of mini-mall Ei8ht Thonglor, is at the bottom of the pack. Oddly enough there’s a cannelloni on the menu (meat is too dry, béchamel is good), but apart from that, your options are basically paella or tapas. The paella lacks that density of flavor you get from great stock, perhaps because Hola uses very blah seafood. This problem translates to other tapas dishes, such as the calamares brasa (B200). The squid’s lack of natural sweetness and flavor make it a surprisingly flat dish given the sweet paprika, garlic, vinegar and olive oil seasoning. The recommended shrimp casserole (gambas brasa, B150) is slightly better—the shrimps are perfectly cooked—but most of that can simply be put down to the magical powers of garlic fried in olive oil. Even their veggies are bland. The escalivada (B225) salad should be bright and lively with its bell pepper, onion, eggplant and anchovies but somehow has you reaching for the vinegar and pepper in an effort to inject some life into it. Some dishes do fare better—we like their chorizo Iberico (B210) and gazpacho (B75)—but others fare worse—twice we’ve had undercooked patatas bravas (fried potatoes with spicy sauce, B110) that were bordering on crunchy. The resulting impression is very middle of the road, and not just for the food. The service (friendly but not particularly attentive) and décor (pretty cozy as far as mall basements go) are pretty average, too. With reasonable prices and a nice list of Spanish wines (B1,100-5,000), we can see why Hola has already developed a following with a few expats in the neighborhood. But for it to grow beyond a solid neighborhood restaurant would take a more inspired kitchen and the use of better produce. Corkage B500.