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Restaurant Review: Spanish flavor and flair found at Viva Madrid

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Spanish culture and cuisine are sweeping the restaurant world, and Viva Madrid gives locals a flavorful taste of this trend. The tapas restaurant is tucked in between other eateries and shops in the Claremont Village.

The only way you will find Viva Madrid is if you either go with someone who has been there before or if you are brave enough to walk through a dimly lit hallway.

I took this trek to the Village recently, only to struggle to find Viva Madrid. It took a second glance to even notice the sign stating the restaurant was down the hall. I was skeptical that I would ever even find a restaurant at the end of my journey. Finally, in the hallway next to 42nd Street Bagel, I discovered the tiny eatery.

A tapas restaurant is one that specializes in appetizers. The portions of the food is the same as the size of the restaurant: small.

I was greeted and asked if I would like to sit at the bar or at a table. However, when I arrived there was a huge party sitting at most of the tables, so I chose the bar.

The menu had a list of nearly 40 tapas to choose from. If you are not familiar with Spanish food, you might be a little confused as to what everything is. The confusion is not a huge problem considering I had enough time to sit and read the menu before anyone came up to take my order.

However, this time allowed me to soak up the rich atmosphere. Above the entrance is a bull’s head. Posters and signs above the bar are all matador or bull fighting-themed. The walls are decorated with spices and chains of garlic. The seating capacity of the restaurant is small, but the roof extends high enough to be a two story place. This makes it feel a lot less cramped.

There is also a mock balcony where the second story would be located, with more spices and some Spanish images. The place is dimly lit and the bar’s counter top is covered with colorful mosaic-like tile pieces. On the bartender’s side of the bar is an old looking wood cabinet with the word “Holy” on it, giving you a sense of Spanish culture and religion. I have never personally been to Spain, but I would imagine this is how many of the restaurants feel.

When I finally was able to place my order, I decided to try deep fried potatoes with parsley, onions and bread crumbs. This plate came out with three finger-size pieces. It was quite tasty because of the onions and parsley. The chicken, however, was a little dry. It might have been better with dipping sauce or possibly a little cheese with the chicken. The same went for the chicken empanada I also tried.

I decided to move away from chicken in general and ordered something that was described as a potato omelet with onions, parsley and cheese. The plate surprised me when it was brought out in a pie-like slice. It appeared to be baked as large dish, and slices were cut and served. It had a crispy outer layer and soft inner layer. This was my favorite of the food I tried. The potatoes were tasty and I could not imagine needing to add anything to this plate to make it better. Well, OK, one thing would be to make it bigger.

Other items on the menu included sev?eral ways to order breads and toast. Many of the tapas came with onions and parsley. Squid, shrimp, asparagus, artichokes and onions were abundant in each meal.

However, you will need to order a number of tapas if you show up hungry.

You can also order an entrée. These plates cost more than mixing and matching multiple tapas orders. The entrées range from $15 to a little more than $20. The tapas section of the menu rages from $1 up to $10.

Of course there is a fully stocked bar for those of you who want a shot or a good mixed drink. Sangria seemed to be the drink of choice, but I opted not try it that evening. From what I could see, there was not much of a beer selection with no list on the menu.

I would have to say the food is great tasting and worth the cost. However, I was not sure if the wait was purposely long or if the server for the evening was lazy or swamped with customers.

I guess you should expect a wait when the server is doubling as the bartender and host, with only one other employee on the floor to help. This place is not ideal to grab a quick bite; however, it would be great for a date.

All in all, I was impressed and would consider going back for some tapas and a drink.

Rick Moñtanez can be reached at

Viva Madrid!
225 Yale Avenue, Claremont
(909) 624-5500
Open from 5 to 11 p.m.
Tuesdays through Sundays
Closed Mondays.
Flamenco guitarists perform Wednesday and Thursday nights

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