Ever since we launched our little Text Rex service, we've been noticing some trends. Some of them we expected - like the fact that everyone in the month of May is just trying to figure out how to eat outside, and that many of you are very bad at making plans. Oh you have a party of seven you want to go somewhere new and hot? A 7pm? Tonight? Sure, give Upland a call.
There are also some things that we didn't necessarily expect, specifically one thing that everybody seems to want at some point - drinks and small plates. Maybe it's for a casual meetup with a girlfriend after work, or maybe it's the first date thing, but cocktails and bites are in high demand. Also, did you know people still use the word "tapas?" I know that's the proper term in Spain and at a few restaurants in Chelsea, but I'm pretty sure you're using it wrong. I do not think it's interchangeable for "cute food."
Lupulo is not a tapas restaurant, but it is a restaurant that's very good for the drinks and bites thing. As a matter of fact, it seems designed for exactly and only that purpose. Brought to you by George Mendes, chef of Aldea, it's a casual, small plate-focused Portugese restaurant with a huge U-shaped bar that takes up the majority of the room. It's a perfect spot for that aforementioned casual meetup, as long as you're meeting up with one person, and assuming you're both cool with shellfish. Take your seat at the bar and enjoy some mackerel dip and a few glases of wine. There are plenty of things on this menu that will make you happy, and you'll like the wine selection.
The thing we don't like about Lupulo is that it's not a good spot for much beyond that specific use. The nature of the room is such that the tables for groups larger than two are off to the side of the massive bar, and seem somewhat disconnected from the rest of the restaurant, sort of like the kid's table at a big family dinner. There are also some strange quirks that make Lupulo feel a bit too precious, like the fact that it's very difficult to order a drink while you wait for your seats, and when do you order a beer, they'll ask you if you want five or nine ounces of it. The only time I've been concerned with exactly how many ounces of beer I need was when I was trying calculate how many Keystone Lights my Camelback will hold. Even then, the answer was "one Dave Matthews concert" worth. Spare me the math.
Beyond that, we just didn't find the food at Lupulo to be good enough to make it a place worth recommending for much more than drinks and bites - but strictly for that purpose we'll probably be recommending it a lot. If we do send you here, stick to the items in the Food Rundown below and you'll be in good shape. Just don't call them tapas.
A Portugese mackerel spread that is pretty fantastic. It's not as fishy as you might expect, and works perfectly as a salty companion to your drink. Order it.
If you've ever eaten "tapas," you've had salt cod croquettes. These are a very good example of them.
One of our favorite things on this menu. These little shrimp and pimenton turnovers are like tiny Portuguese empanadas. Put them on your table and then in your mouth - but use restraint. They'll be piping hot on the inside.
The best thing to say on the menu at Lupulo, if not the best thing to eat. This is sort of a paella-type dish, with octopus and olives. It's a good order if you're on the hungrier side - maybe get this and the lamb leg and split them between two of you.
A nicely cooked piece of lamb leg that serves well as a thing to order for someone who don't eat shellfish or pork. Then again, this is not the best place to bring that someone.
The roasted chicken came highly recommended by our server on each of our visits, and we ended up ordering it the second time around. All we can tell you is that you don't need to. Served with a little bottle of piri-piri pepper sauce on the side, it was still pretty unremarkable.