The Rosie Report: Sayola in Montclair

Service is attentive and friendly, but misinterpretations are aplenty.

Stuffed zucchini, with empanadas in the background.Photo courtesy of Lowell Saferstein

Upon entering Sayola in Montclair, I asked the hostess, “Isn’t this restaurant BYO?” We were confused because the entire front window had a dramatic display of wine bottles. “No, they are there for decoration,” she replied. That was not the only misperception we experienced here. Read on.

Upon being seated and eyeing the décor we were impressed with the Spanish motif and music, a fresh fish arrangement on ice and wine bottle chandeliers. The name Sayola originates from the first two letters from each of the owner’s children: Sandra, Yorett and Lazaro. Another location of this restaurant is in Tenafly, where it has a liquor license.

Lamb shoulder. Photo courtesy of Lowell Saferstein

Warm bread, butter and an olive spread are placed on the table when seated. Appetizers were impressive, especially the humongous, crispy beef empanadas which can easily be shared by two. The visually impressive and multi-flavored stuffed zucchini with almonds, béchamel and gooey cheese was a hit with creamy flavors and crunch from the almonds. The only disappointment was traditional Spanish octopus with olive oil, Spanish paprika and boiled potatoes, which was a tad salty for us as it was topped with rock salt.

Lowell originally opted for grilled red snapper that was on display but when he was told that it was for two people and $90 he ordered red snapper with clams and shrimp ($31.95) in a fish broth based tomato sauce. The fish was fresh tasting but small and presented with a swirl of mashed potatoes, broccoli, carrots and one stalk of asparagus. Since Lowell did not order pork, I did.

The menu read “Paletillia de Cordro” which in Spanish means a shoulder blade of lamb, but was described on the menu as “Boston Butt” served with Spanish fries. Boston Butt is pork and that is what I was expecting to get and was quite surprised when lamb shoulder was placed in front of me. Upon questioning the waitress she sent the manager over who confirmed that I was correct. Boston Butt is pork. I kept the dish and the meat was tender and juicy. However, I also misinterpreted “Spanish fries” as they were shoestring potatoes not the homemade potato chips served in Spanish restaurants. Stuffed chicken breast with Serrano ham, Manchego cheese, asparagus and mushrooms in a brandy sauce was scrumptious and reminded us of chicken Kiev, but better. Dessert was a decent enough flan that came with an unnecessary caramel sauce.

Ladies room at Sayola. Photo by Rosie Saferstein

Since menu prices are high (pulpo appetizer $19.95; red snapper $31.95; Boston Butt (which was lamb) $35.95; and flan $10.95) we were surprised that although we ordered three entrees for four people that there was an $8 charge for sharing. The menu did state that there was a sharing charge of $8, but only under the list of paellas offered.

Plates and silverware were replaced after each course and service was attentive and friendly. Be sure to check out the eye-catching ladies room which has sinks made from copper wine buckets that sit atop of wine barrel bases.

Sayola is located at 38 Valley Road, Montclair; 862-333-4499; BYO

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