Pittsfield tapas bar goes the distance; dishes blend variety and flavor

Mission Bar and Tapas is not fooling around. The Pittsfield restaurant boasts indoor and outdoor seating, intimate décor, live music, a strong selection of drinks and what else but an expansive menu of spiced-up tapas dishes. Mission deftly combines Berkshire and Spanish flavors to roll out a dinner menu made to be traversed. The service, I might add, was excellent and accommodating for the entire evening.

Mission’s food menu is divided into tapas, otros, platos and paella. We sampled some from each.The first dishes to arrive were the roast sweet potato croquettes ($7) with chipotle aioli along with two salmon sliders ($10), our only selection from the otros menu. The croquettes had a thin crispy exterior and were crammed full of sweet potato stuffing, although I found the chipotle aioli to be rich but bland.The salmon sliders were a treat: The house-cured salmon and perfectly fried bacon packed a lot of flavor between the thick, fresh rolls, accompanied by fresh greens

Next came paella valencia ($18) containing large chunks of chicken and whole shrimp plus spicy chorizo slices. The yellow rice was well cooked, neither too fluffy nor underdone, and  bright green peas added flavor and color. The whole dish was nicely saturated in a delicious savory sauce. Our only other non-tapa order was the shepherd’s pie ($12), a plato described as “[braised] lamb shoulder and wild mushrooms, whipped parsnip topping.”  Despite the notable taste of red wine,  the lamb filling was delicious and soft.

Moving along, we also ordered pulled pork and corn empanadas ($7), gnocchi with seared calamari in tomato sauce ($8) and cracked pepper-crusted scallops with a vanilla brandy reduction ($13). The empanadas had a delicious flaky crust but were nothing special in the empanada world; the gnocchi dish, on the other hand, offered delightful plump black and white gnocchi in a near-stew of tomatoes, fresh basil and calamari, though it might not have met standards for Spanish authenticity.. I had mixed feelings about the scallops: The vanilla brandy reduction was a nice touch, but though the scallops were fresh they had a gummy texture and the crust was overwhelmingly peppered.

We selected the patatas bravas ($6), the organic quail in a balsamic reduction stuffed with fig and blue cheese ($12) and the bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with blue cheese and topped with ground almonds ($8) to conclude our main course. The patatas bravas were disappointing: The two topping sauces were bland (the white sauce) and straightforwardly tomatoey (the red sauce), with the occasional flare of heat interrupting my eating. The quail was  difficult to eat, forcing us to carve the fist-sized thing. The meat had no special taste and the stuffing was high on fig and low on blue cheese. Nevertheless, it was worth trying since organic quail is a rarity around here. On the other hand, the bacon-wrapped dates stole the show. The thick, salty bacon was fried to perfection around sumptuously sweet dates dripping with blue cheese filling, satisfying at last. The crushed almonds created the opportunity for an even richer texture experience, and for their value and general brilliance, these dates are a must-order every time.

Desserts aren’t on the menu at Mission, but when asked, our waitress offered us three options: flan, tres leches and flourless chocolate cake. We then ordered some coffee and, well, all three desserts. The pat of flan was served as an island among the sweet sauce and accompanied by fresh whipped cream, a sweet fig jelly and a thin, crunchy piece of fried dough. I found it delicious but quite usual. The tres leches set a new standard: The dish involved three fingers of soft cake seeped in a sweet cream sauce and topped with fresh whipped cream and fresh strawberries. The rich sauce was balanced by both its own thinness and the cake’s fluffiness. Similarly, the flourless chocolate cake defied my expectations.  The cake was moist and boasted extreme amounts of chocolate and sugar – one could almost feel the granules – but the dense texture and fresh whipped cream on the side made it the perfect choice for chocolate and cake lovers (read: most people) everywhere.

Overall, the creative offerings of Mission surprised and delighted. The ingredients were top-quality and the cooking generally quite competent. Believe it or not after this list, the menu still holds many intriguing options, and for the quality, the prices is quite right. Be prepared for exquisitely flavored dishes in small sizes, and don’t skip out on the dessert.

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