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Sol de Espaí±a, Rockville - Closed


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Sol de Espana is located on Rockville Pike across from the Wintergreen Shopping Center (which has a great Thai restaurant, Benjarong in it) just south of Rt. 28. It has gotten popular, so you probably need a reservation, definitely on Friday or Saturday night.

Pretty room, white table cloths, friendly service, and great food. We started with appetizers, which were excellent if small. My son had the Calamares Fritos, light, cooked perfectly and served simply with lemon. My wife had Pimientos Asados, roasted sweet peppers with garlic. I had three wonderful grilled sardines, crispy skin with perfectly flaky flesh, also served simply with lemon.

For entrees the boy had a half lobster with scallops and shrimp in a delightful and light tomato based sauce. My wife had Rape Catalana, monk fish, mussels, and shrimp in a frest tomato, saffron, garlic and brandy sauce. I had soft shell crabs in garlic sauce. All were excellent, with the nod for best to the Rape Catalan.

We washed it down with a bottle of Marques de Caceres, Rioja 2003. Dry and crisp, with just the right amount of acidity, bright melon flavors with notes of lemon and lime and vanilla from oak. It was clean and fresh and complemented the food perfectly. The wine glasses were the small bowl type however, but we made do.

The wine list is large for a Montgomery County restaurant, running about 12 pages. Only complaint, no vintage dates except on the last two pages, the reserve wines. Prices however are very reasonable with lots of choices in the $25-30 range, both red and white.

Dinner ended with desserts; orange bread pudding for me, a moist and huge rasberry cake for my wife, and a wonderfully creamy and rich cheesecake for the boy. Coffee for me, latte for my wife, and expersso for the boy to end the meal. They make great coffee and expresso btw.

Dinner, wine, tax and tip was about $160 for the three of us.

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Dinwiddie, have you been back since this post? Has anyone else tried this place?

Actually, I haven't been there in a while. I went back a couple of times (the original post was after my third or fourth visit but was something I had written up after my first about 8 months earlier) and enjoyed it very much. However, then it got well reviewed in the Post and you needed a reservation to go. Since it had been a drop in for us, I haven't been back since I don't normally make reservations for places in Rockville as I am usually over there a lot and if I'm looking to eat it is because I can't be bothered with going home to make something. (If I'm going to the trouble to make a reservation in advance, I will probably go to someplace in DC and take a bottle of wine from my cellar with me)

It still seems to be packed in the evenings from the looks of the parking.

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I'm off to Spain over the xmas holidays, so as a little warm up, I thought we'd find some Spanish cuisine. After consulting the handy-dandy DR.com Restuarant Guide I decided on Sol de Espana which I've driven by a few times and made mental notes to try.

I found it to be a bit of a mixed bag. The lightly fried sardines were very fresh and delicious. The roasted peppers with garlic seemed like they came out of a jar or perhaps roasted two weeks ago. The Serrano ham with fresh figs was good, but I question whether or not that was truly Serrano. The meat seemed too pink and uniformly grained. We shared a Valencian paella with overcooked mussels, clams, shrimp, bay scallops, chicken, pork?, veal?, monkfish?, snapper?, kitchen sink?... It became hard to tell what some of that protein was. I know paella originates as a way to make the most of leftovers, but seemed a bit much. The rice was good though.

I might go back, then again maybe not. I wasn't unhappy with the experience, I guess I just thought it could have been a lot better.

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I'm off to Spain over the xmas holidays, so as a little warm up, I thought we'd find some Spanish cuisine. After consulting the handy-dandy DR.com Restuarant Guide I decided on Sol de Espana which I've driven by a few times and made mental notes to try.

I found it to be a bit of a mixed bag. The lightly fried sardines were very fresh and delicious. The roasted peppers with garlic seemed like they came out of a jar or perhaps roasted two weeks ago. The Serrano ham with fresh figs was good, but I question whether or not that was truly Serrano. The meat seemed too pink and uniformly grained. We shared a Valencian paella with overcooked mussels, clams, shrimp, bay scallops, chicken, pork?, veal?, monkfish?, snapper?, kitchen sink?... It became hard to tell what some of that protein was. I know paella originates as a way to make the most of leftovers, but seemed a bit much. The rice was good though.

I might go back, then again maybe not. I wasn't unhappy with the experience, I guess I just thought it could have been a lot better.

Jake and I went a couple of weeks before he went back to college. The appetizers and desserts were very good, the entrees only average. Nice bottle of wine though.

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I'm off to Spain over the xmas holidays, so as a little warm up, I thought we'd find some Spanish cuisine. After consulting the handy-dandy DR.com Restuarant Guide I decided on Sol de Espana which I've driven by a few times and made mental notes to try.

I found it to be a bit of a mixed bag. The lightly fried sardines were very fresh and delicious. The roasted peppers with garlic seemed like they came out of a jar or perhaps roasted two weeks ago. The Serrano ham with fresh figs was good, but I question whether or not that was truly Serrano. The meat seemed too pink and uniformly grained. We shared a Valencian paella with overcooked mussels, clams, shrimp, bay scallops, chicken, pork?, veal?, monkfish?, snapper?, kitchen sink?... It became hard to tell what some of that protein was. I know paella originates as a way to make the most of leftovers, but seemed a bit much. The rice was good though.

I might go back, then again maybe not. I wasn't unhappy with the experience, I guess I just thought it could have been a lot better.

I think you need to measure your expectations here and at other spanish restaurants in the area. Your peppers may have been piquillos, if they were piquillos (D.O) which are a pepper variety from Piquillo, they will be canned anywhere you eat them, including Spain and they will finish them off in a mud bowl with hot olive oil and garlic still sizzling to the table. You can get better or worse quality but they will always be canned. The jamon serrano will never be good, b/c its not iberico, which is a variety of jamon serrano that comes from Extremadura that the FDA will not allow into the US, therefore what you get isn't as good as the prosciutto you can get here. It is very hard to get a good paella at any restaurant you go to (even Spain), b/c its not a dish fit for restaurants. They usually take 3 hours to make and making it in 30 minutes like many restaurants pull off is just cutting too many corners for a good paella. I don't know if this is just me or I'm just being a snob about the food...

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Had a surprisingly delightful meal here tonight for my anniversary.

The previous owners retired last year. New Chef/Owner Daniel Arana was previously the Executive Chef at Taberna del Alabardero in DC for 3 years, and it shows.

While the storefront on the outside is just Rockville strip mall, pushing past the curtains inside the doorway leads to a bright and cheery dining room, and an immediate relief from the noise and bustle just outside. At 6:30p on a Sunday, the dining room is completely empty, so it's no surprise when we're greeted by name (I made a reservation via OpenTable). In fact, in the 90 minutes or so we are there, only one other table (and one obvious regular at the bar) enter. The hostess tells us that Sundays are frequently slow, but they're packed to the gills on Saturday, so the easy night is a welcome respite.

A basket of perfectly decent bread placed on the table becomes a willing vehicle for sopping up some of the delightful Spanish olive oil on the table.

First courses put us completely on stun. I went with one of the finest bowls of gazpacho I've ever had, the vibrant flavors of the fresh vegetables easily coming through the perfectly chilled soup, and the chunks of crouton, tomato, onion, and green pepper enhancing rather than masking the flavor of the soup. My wife went with a special of chilled spring pea soup, which while short of the wizardry that Tom Power at Corduroy has delivered on this classic, was excellent and certainly worth ordering again.

Second course was a miss for me, but mostly my own fault. Ensalada Andaluza (Green Salad with Avocado, Tomato, Artichokes, Hearts of Palm and Green Olives) was fine, but those ingredients are purchased and not cooked, so the slightly overdressed salad wasn't nearly as impressive as the winning first course. My wife's seared scallops, however, were another star, and I'd let you know the preparation except it's not on the online menu, and I only got a single taste before they vanished. I can tell you that they were incredibly fresh tasting and perfectly cooked, seared and slightly crusty on the outside, and quivering like jello in the center.

Mains were both excellent - a suckling pig special for me, two huge chunks (I could eat only one) of fabulous piggy, with golden brown crispy crackling clearly crack-laced skin, served with a sauce that I'm blanking on, and some browned potatoes. I'm already drooling thinking about eating those leftovers tomorrow for lunch. My wife went with a whole fish (sea bass?), expertly filleted at the table, and placed along with the crispy skin on a beautiful plate already layered with cherry tomatoes and green beans before a sauce was gently ladled on top. I barely got a forkful of the incredibly tender fish, because my wife went for the bread basket to nearly lick the plate clean while I was still stuffing my face with pig.

I also had a glass of a Spanish Rioja that I didn't get the name of, but did just fine with my entree. Pacing was perfect throughout the meal, water and iced tea glasses kept quietly full, and before we knew it, complementary tastes of the flan and rice pudding brought out with a friendly "Happy Anniversary". Chef Arana came out for a quick hello, wanting to make sure everything was to our liking.

It was, and we will return.

P.S. $100 before tip for 2 soups, 2 apps, 2 mains, 2 soft drinks, and 1 glass of wine.

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Crap. Closing.

Sol de Espana invites you to the last event we will be offering. We will close our doors at the begining of April and we will host a Flamenco show with Torcuato Zamora. This will be our farewell event.

Thanks for your support this year!

To reserve a place for this event please make your reservation through www.elsoldeespana.com

We will not take phone or e-mail reservations for this event. We will call you to confirm your reservation.

Sunday, March 27 2011, 6:00pm

Menu

Tapas

Fried Rockfish, Squid and Scallops

Pork Tenderloin with Spanish Blue Cheese Sauce

Salad

Spinach Salad with Goat Cheese, Honey and Nut Dressing

Fish

Grilled Monkfish over Asparagus Soup and a Bed of Mushrooms

Meat

Beef Strip Loin with Potato Puree and Port Sauce

Dessert

Traditional "Torrijas" --Bread Soaked in Vanilla Infused Milk with Ice Cream

Price per person: $39 (tax and tip not included)

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Crap. Closing.

Very sad to hear this. I've only been there twice since Chef Dani took over (never been before the change in ownership), but I thoroughly enjoyed it both times. The food was well executed and the portion sizes were pretty generous so I thought it was a relative bargain. But I guess it wasn't good enough to be a destination restaurant and too expensive to be a regular neighborhood spot.

It was fairly empty both times I went, so I guess I'm not completely surprised. Though on the other hand, I noticed that they recently installed a new sign, so I thought maybe business was doing well. Why would they bother to get a new sign if they're just going to close a few weeks later?

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