A friend of mine was recommending new restaurants that he had found. One was a place in downtown Riverdale that serves in Spanish tapas. Soon after hearing this, I dined there. I liked it so much that I’ve come back to Riviera Tapas Bar again and again.
[Note that Riviera Tapas recently moved to a new building across the street from it’s original location. Most of this article reflects experiences at the original restaurant.]
Longtime readers of this blog know that I have a special attachment to Tapas. A type of Spanish cuisine, tapas consist of many small plates that are intended to share. Normally I like to go to such restaurants with a group of people. But as I started going to Riviera tapas during the height of the COVID pandemic, I was not able to do so. However, I have gone to Riviera often enough that I have sampled most of their menu.
As much of the menu consists of tapas, I’ve organized the article thematically and not exclusively by sections of the menu. Their offerings have changed over time, so some of these dishes are not currently on the menu.
Several of the tapas uses slices of bread as their base. These include: Molletes (refried beans and mozzarella) , Pan con Tomate (tomato), Montaditos con Jamon y Queso (ham and cheese), and Manchego (sheep’s milk cheese). They also have Montaditos with Smoked Salmon, which I have not tried. The bread in all except the Manchego is grilled. The bread tapas that is my favorite is the Molletes. I really liked the mixture of the melted mozzarella with the refried beans. The blend of flavors works quite well.
Many of the tapas are centered on vegetables. Some of them have similar seasoning. For example, both the cauliflower and the Brussels sprouts have the same garlic sauce. It’s good on both, but I feel it works better with the cauliflower. The asparagus with ham is a favorite. The asparagus is quite tender, and it is drizzled with a thick balsamic that contrasts with the salty ham very well. All the vegetable tapas are excellent. But if I had to pick a favorite, it would be the cauliflower. I love the way it soaks up the garlic sauce.
The Spinach Salad is not technically a tapas, and can be found in the salad section of the menu. (It used to be there by itself, but there are now garden salad and Caesar salad offerings.) Since it is a vegetable dish I mention it here. This salad is one of my favorite dishes at Riviera. Full of fresh baby spinach, it also has mixed nuts, cranberries, and slices of fresh strawberries. There are several different kinds of nuts: peanuts, cashews, almonds, and pecans. This mix nuts, besides providing some crunch, the nuts also give the dish great depth of flavor. The salad also has some quinoa, but it is mainly an accent. The spinach leaves are the heart of the dish. I also like the dressing, which is a sesame ginger vinaigrette. It balances the rest of the salad quite nicely.
Finally, I will discuss the tapas that feature (or at least include) meats. They are: Chrozio Espanol (Spanish sausage), Datiles (bacon wrapped dates), Grilled Octopus, Bacon Wrapped Shrimp, and Vieras La Plancha (pan seared scallops). I love them all.
The Grilled Octopus is one of the first dishes I had at Riviera and it is one of my favorites. The octopus is meaty and tender. It is served with chorizo and potatoes and topped with a mildly spicy green sauce. It provides just the right amount of tang to the mild octopus. The Chorizo Espanol is mild but flavorful. It is covered with a tangy tomato sauce. The scallops are perfectly cooked: tender with a good sear. The seasoning was light. They are served with a copious amount of cauliflower puree and topped with a cream sauce that has good flavor. The datiles are the perfect mix of sweet and salty. They are stuffed with a good amount of cream cheese, cutting the intense flavors of the bacon and dates. Finally, the shrimp are big and juicy. Served on top of delicious mashed potatoes just oozing with butter, the entire dish is delicious.
Entrees and other dishes.
In addition to the tapas, Riviera also has some larger dishes. Besides the already mentioned salads, there two two other sections. One has Latin American food and the other has Entrees. I’ll cover both here. I normally order tapas, but these dishes are also quite good..
The Latin American section has tacos and empanadas. The empanadas are filled with cheese and your choice of beef, chicken, or vegetables. The taco offering are chicken, Shrimp, barbacoa (their version has beef and not pork), or steak. There is also a Taco Trio option that has one each of chicken, shrimp, and barbacoa. I had that Taco Trio and the empanadas. I feel that the tacos are more substantial than the empanadas. All three are packed with meat and all are quite tasty. Which one you prefer is a personal preference, and I do not recommend one over the others.
The entrees feature a variety of different meats and seafood, to include: shrimp, salmon, crab cakes, fried chicken, mussels, strip steak, pork chops, and Fillet Mignon. There also is a penne pasta dish. I have had two entrees: Lomo Buey (featuring Fillet Mignon) and the Crab Cakes. Of the two, the crab cakes are by far my favorite. Two big, lumpy pieces of crab cakes served over a bed of quinoa with peppers and onions. They are great crab cakes.
The dessert menu has many typical Latin American style desserts: Churros, Tres Leches, and Flan. In addition to that, they also have a Chocolate Lava Cake and a Toxedo Bomb. My favorite is the Tres Leches. A dense, white cake that is swimming in sweetened condensed milk. It’s Tres Leches the way it is meant to be.
A close second is the Toxedo Bomb. A rich chocolate cake topped with white and dark chocolate mousse, all covered in a ganache shell. It is sinfully delicious!
Riviera Tapas bar has a good selection of Spanish or Latin American drinks. I have tried many of them. They are all good drinks. Here are some highlights. In the Sangria, the fruit is fresh. I’ve had Sangria in other places where it is frozen (and tasteless). Riviera’s Sangria has a nice fruity flavor. It’s not the best I’ve ever had, but it is still quite good. The BSB Churro is one of my favorites. Made with cinnamon bourbon, it also has great presentation: the rim is lined with cinnamon and sugar and the glass is topped with a churro. The flavors and appearance are quite distinctive.
My favorite drink, however, is the house red wine. A blended wine, it has a nice, smooth taste.
The original location of Riviera Tapas had a decent amount of indoor seating and I did not have a problem getting a table. The walls were sparsely but tastefully decorated. They also had a small outside patio that I absolutely adored. It was a great place to have a meal on a warm spring day. But because it was so small, it filled up quickly. If I didn’t get there early, I would not get a spot. At both the original and at the new location, the service is prompt and courteous and the wait staff is always helpful.
As I was finishing up this article, Riviera Tapas moved across the street to a new location. I felt I had to visit it before posting. How is the new place? The food is just as good if not better. The ambience, however, not so much. It is a much smaller place and consequently, much more crowded. That did not bother me. The noise, however, did. The noise level is very high, resulting in a very different dining experience. The restaurant now feels more like a sports bar than a bistro.
I will miss the old location, but Riviera Tapas is still a great place to get a good Spanish food.