Rioja feels like Spain alright, albeit pre-Movida (and definitely pre-El Bulli) Spain. There are two full sets of armor overlooking the diners, brick arches holding up the low ceiling, and well-spaced tables so you don’t have to listen to your neighbors discussing the evils of molecular cuisine. The solid, comforting food is without fireworks, but competition on Bangkok’s Iberian food front still remains sparse enough that Rioja remains a top option. The tapas platter (B300) is a generous selection to ease yourself into the meal, with bell peppers topped with salmon roe, shrimps, and a few cold cuts. The produce is quality but we’re mystified by the use of mealy whole-wheat bread instead of the usual baguette served in Spain. In fact, their excellent pan con tomate (bread with tomatoes), which comes with all the cheeses and cold cuts, uses much better bread. Have it with the mixed Serrano hams (B450), which come with a decent chorizo and some very nice Serrano ham—it’s also half the price of the jamon iberico de Ballotti Grande Reserva (B900). As for mains, most people come for the paella, which is available with seafood (rock lobster, US scallops, NZ mussels, B990 for two) or meat (duck, pork spare ribs, chorizo, B950).
You may have to banish weep-worthy memories you have of Spain’s homemade fish stock or catch-of-the-day flavors but Rioja’s hearty chorizo and fatty, tender rice does make for some very pleasurable comfort food nonetheless. If you venture beyond the paella, we like how they handle fish, such as the perfectly baked barramundi (B480). Fresh, with a texture that’s firm to the knife yet melts in your mouth, it could be a stellar dish if it were served with something a little more exciting than mashed potatoes. Desserts too, can be a tad pedestrian, such as the chocolate “souffle” (B220), actually the same chocolate lava cake you’ve had everywhere else. But with years of incredible consistency and impeccable service, Rioja remains a great option for dates, business meetings or just those evenings when you want to be treated like royalty.
Open daily 1-2:30pm, 6-11pm. Corkage B500. BBB-BBBB
|Address:||Rioja, 1025 Phloen Chit Rd., Bangkok, Thailand|
|Price Range:||BBB - BBBB|
|Opening hours:||daily noon-1:30pm, 5-10pm|
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