Just ate here a few mins ago. Great Paella, and the little ribs Tapas was great, could have been good without ordering the Tiburon tapas. The Service was nice, the waiter made sure my wife had Ice tea all night. Great atmosphere, a most go if you are in the Sacramento area.
The other day, I met a business client at Aioli’s for lunch and had their steak sandwich with a glass of exceptional red wine, which had cherry undertones. My client and I had lunch on the back patio, which was very enjoyable under the coliseum of trees. The deal was sealed. In general, Aioli’s is a great place to conduct business, as it is frequented by business folk and California law makers alike. It seems every time I come in here, someone is making a deal at the table beside me. Reda Bellarbi, the owner, is at the heart of all of this action, connecting the people of Sacramento with one another. He has on several occasions connected me to CEOs, other leading business figures, and business networks in Sacramento, and is also well known for his philanthropic network around town. His restaurants and wine bars support a large number faith and community charities, which have likely resulted in his extensive professional network. Yes, I recommend this place for food, service, and décor, but the networking potential of this place can not be overlooked.
I treated myself to dinner the other night and decided that downtown Sacramento was the place to be. Naturally, I came to Aioli Bodega Espanola Restaurant, a.k.a., Aioli’s, as I have come to know the owner, Reda, and many of the long-time servers by their first names, and they have always made me feel like I’m part of a big Mediterranean family. Living thousands of miles away from home, and away from your oldest and best friends, people who treat you like family tend to readily grow on you, and so I come back on a regular basis. This is a family of chefs, sommeliers, philosophers, and kings.
Much of this big family comes from Algeria, France, Morocco, Spain, and Mexico, bringing forth a great number of otherwise hard to find fresh and delicious recipes. On this particular visit, I thought I’d try the lamb shank, which prompted me to write this review, as I have only had such a well prepared lamb one other time. The other time was at the base of Franz Joseph Glacier in New Zealand, commonly known as the home of the best lamb in the world. In both cases, the lamb was cooked to perfection, falling off the bone, as if it was cooked in a stew marinade for hours, despite being prepared in less than 20 minutes during peak hour. It was accompanied by tender vegetables and complimentary bread and hummus, and of course several Heineken beers.
Some other perks include live classical guitar music towards the weekend, a discrete outdoor garden patio, changing and permanent art, including a hand-pounded copper bar, artistic copper lighting, murals, large impressionist paintings, and photography. And just when you think it couldn’t get any better, there is also Aioli’s at The Grand Wine Bar, two blocks towards the Capitol rose gardens, and Aioli’s in Davis.
My wife and I recently went to Aioli Bodega Espanola on the advice of a friend who is always raving about it. The location is right in the mix of the downtown action and has a really genuine Euro kind of feel. It did not feel like a fake attempt at creating atmosphere like one might find in a Tex-Mex place with sombreros and piñatas hanging from the walls. It felt legit and they even had a Spanish guitarist playing music in the background! However, we did not go here to listen to the music. We came here to eat and… and boy did we eat well! We started with an order of portobello mushrooms sauteed with sherry and garlic and scallops pan sauteéd in a garlic beluga lentil anchovie sauce in a garlic. These dishes were so awesome and very well presented. For the entree, we had rabbit marinated and cooked in rioja wine with celery roots, mushrooms and olives as well as seared duck breast, medium rare, in a glaze of old red wine vinegar with a hint of cinnamon, vanilla and cayenne pepper, equally scrumptious!! After enjoying a hard to find bottle of Spanish wine, we split an order of sponge cake layered with fresh fruit & pastry cream, imbibed with malaga wine. The coffee was very tasty and not watered down. Throughout the entire meal, the service was professional and attentive, even though the place seemed very busy.
This restaurant so charmed me on a first visit with some ladies who lunch this spring, that I returned 4 more times over the next few weeks with my husband who agrees it is a great place for tapas. I'm not a big fan of paella, and previously hadn't found a tapas restaurant in Sacramento that I would return to, but this paella is great. I had grilled prime rib eye steak in a glazed sauce with anchovies and it was OUT-OF-THIS-WORLD!!!! I did, in fact, swoon an evening I ordered the grilled baby lamb chops. And then there was the lunch when I ordered the grilled double breast of chicken with red pepper flakes in a wild mushroom & sweet sherry sauce and garbonzo puree, which was quickly grilled and served quite right, still juicy!! With the large servings, you will not go hungry. Lunch at Aioli’s for my husband and I precludes dinner that day. We haven’t yet found a dish that we weren’t fond of. Being anglophiles and lamb hounds we also liked the grilled lamb sausage with coca bread. I haven't tried the braised lamb shank in tomato and onions served with flageolet beans. I will try again today and persist until I reach that goal. Meantime, Viva Spain!! Viva Aioli’s!
I love, love, LOVE this place! I probably eat here at least 5 times a month. The bartenders and waitresses are always helpful and happy! They have live Flamenco guitar and a hidden outdoor patio. You can't beat that! The atmosphere is great, the decor is tres chic and the bar's full of people to watch!! Aioli's is a great place!!
I have been to Aioli three or four times and the service has always been consistent. My most recent visit on 03/30/08 was more of the same. The ambiance was wonderful, the food was better than I had remembered, and the wine list as impressive as ever. The only issue I had was with our server. He was an older man with a bit of an afro. He was also a bit aloof, and gave my date and I the feeling that he would rather be somewhere else. Other than that...I give this place an A+.
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