Spring Forward with Chef Deborah Hansen’s Sopa Castellana at Taberna de Haro

Just where the Green Line surfaces on Beacon Street in Brookline, Massachusetts, there’s a graceful round plaza technically known as Audubon Circle. It’s long been an open secret that there are a bunch of adventurous and unusual restaurants (and soups) waiting there to be sampled.Taberna de Haro is a fixture, even an anchor, on the scene.

This tapas and wine bar has been open since 1998, its outdoor tables and warm, crowded interior tempting commuters away from pressing issues for small bites and a generous pour of chef/owner/sommelier Deborah Hansen’s Rioja. This past July, the place underwent a welcome expansion. Moreover, it gained a full liquor license and the creative cocktail program (in honor of Ernest Hemmingway!) that goes with it—a seasonal chipotle concoction almost tempted me away from the excellent wine. All of the atmosphere has been retained in the expansion: it’s a neighborhood feel, if your neighborhood is one of those classic Spanish plazas where all kinds can meet to nibble, sip, and flirt. The ruby walls and Moorish accents enhance the romantic mood for the smaller tables. The beautifully polished bar and a large communal table (set up for one of their many wine tasting events) offer opportunity to make new friends. At the moment, Tuesdays are cochinillo nights—they roast a whole suckling pig, which reportedly disappears mighty quick.

I’ve been here before, but always in gazpacho season, so I hadn’t tried the Sopa Castellana (Castillian garlic soup with poached egg). I love the way garlic fills the nose, and the way heat tames it into something subtle and sweet. The broth here has pure garlic flavor that isn’t overpowered by the beefiness of the stock. When the bright yellow yolk of the egg perched on top of a crouton is broken and runs into the soup, the added richness pulls the bowl into balance. Stir it all up and nibbles of beef that were hiding in the depths appear, a tender surprise. This is a homier garlic soup than the versions I’m used to, hearty on a cold night.

On previous visits, I’ve enjoyed the champiñones a la plancha, roasted mushrooms that were truly memorable. This night, I go for patatas bravas (potatoes in a spicy sauce) and albóndigas de bacalão (saffron codfish balls). Both could have used a crisper fry, but the flavors were excellent: the salsa brava tart with a good tip-of-the-tongue heat that makes you sit up and take notice but doesn’t slap you around; the salt-cod fritters with lots of saffron and good fish flavor in a pillowy texture, enhanced by an excellent mayonnaise.

Taberna de Haro is the kind of place where you’re always planning your next visit, gradually working your way through the temptations offered in plates both small and large. The adventure’s made all the more interesting by the extensive wine list—a deserved point of pride. With its expansion, Taberna de Haro offers a convivial place to warm up while you let the worries of the world—and the train—go by.

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