La puerta of Richard Sandoval’s itty-bitty, pretty nuevas tapas bar is now open, & Denver on a Spit & I got a chance to sample our fair share of the menu. His first impressions appear below; mine can be found here.

First of all, what did you think of the vibe? Think it’ll make for a good scene?
What I think about a vibe now & what will be a good place to hang out are probably not one & the same. I have my babies in tow 9 times out of 10, so we would quickly ruin any good vibes floating through this slick but comfy space. For non-baby times like this night I loved it. The places around Commons Park have always been some of our favorites to spend time in, and I think this urban, young area is perfect for a simple, modern tapas bar. I don’t doubt that it will be hopping from day one.

Which dishes worked for you? 
The bacon-wrapped dates with almonds & Valdeon cheese. Of course they would have had to do something drastically wrong—like forget to put the bacon on it—for me to not like this combination. Simply delicious.

Also lip-smacking were the lamb albondigas in tomato sauce. The warm goat cheese melted—but not mixed—in with the sauce was absolutely perfect.

Which didn’t?
The patatas bravas were done in a way that I was not accustomed to, which is fine, but the large, deep-fried potatoes were dry and underflavored—& while the chorizo & chipotle sauce made up for that when I could get some on my fork—overall there was not enough of either to flavor those spuds.

As posted on your blog, my take was slightly different, which is partly why we do this! How do you think Al Lado compared to Ondo’s, with the caveat that we were attending a preview?
To me Ondo’s is about as true to a well-crafted Spanish tapa as one can get in Denver, while Al Lado seems to be doing more “interpretations.” I am not one to care about “authenticity” in the sense of being true to the “original” (whatever that is—though I do clearly like to emphasize words using quotations), so tI think it is hard to compare. The food that night was quite good overall but one of the weaker dishes was the patatas bravas as I mentioned above. I would also like to try the tortilla española from Al Lado before I had to make any final judgement, but I feel pretty comfortable recommending Ondo’s for a Spanish tapas experience like no other in Denver. On the other hand, Al Lado has 4 things going for it that spell restaurant success: location, location, location & Sandoval.

What about the cocktails—do anything for you?
Not really, but then again I usually avoid drinking liquor and wine at the same time, and nothing that we tried paired particularly well with the food. The wine on the other hand was great. I liked the list for being short, sweet and to-the-point.

Now there we agree completely.

Al Lado on Urbanspoon