A funny thing happened on the way to Torremolinos. It closed for renovation.
About mid-summer, I was within hours of giving my editor a review of this Spanish restaurant on Preston Street when I called to check on its hours and a recording told me it was closed for a month ''for renovations.''
This worried me a little. We all know plenty of restaurants that never return from alleged renovation.
But not Torremolinos. Right on schedule, it came back. My husband and I decided to visit again to see just what had been renovated.
The most obvious renovation was a new paint job. The dining room, up a few steps from the entryway, did seem brighter, although the decor was pretty much as we had remembered it. That, however, is not unpleasant.
As our dinner progressed, we noticed other renovations -- the service was more attentive than during our earlier visit; the food tasted better, and the dining room was busier. But the menu and the prices were the same.
On our first visit, my husband and I had ordered seafood -- salmon in garlic sauce ($15.95) for me and Zarzuela ($17.50), a combination of finfish and shellfish, for him. Neither
of us was thrilled with our choice. The salmon was a bit chewy; the shellfish stringy.
The second time we chose red meat -- beef tenderloin and veal -- and found it tender, beautifully sauced and full of flavor.
The Tournedos Torremolinos ($16.50) were two medallions of tenderloin cooked perfectly and lavished with a thick mushroom sauce. One piece of beef satisfied me, although the melt-in-your-mouth goodness tempted me to have more.
My husband had Ternera Castellana ($13.95), veal in a lemon-butter sauce. It was delicate yet tremendously satisfying with a great sauce.
We had started our meal with soup, Garlic ($2.50) and Black Bean ($3.50). Both were interesting and delicious.
I suspected the Garlic Soup would be related to Garlic Sauce, a standby in Spanish cuisine that can be biting. The soup was, however, not the least bit pungent. It looked a bit like Chinese Egg Drop soup and tasted of chicken. The garlic was barely discernible.
The black bean was luscious, made from what seemed like a bean puree with a deep, deep flavor. Tiny bits of onion, rice and cheese garnished the soup; when blended with it, they added to the texture as well as to the taste.
We shared a Caesar Salad for Two ($10), as we had on our first visit. The first time, we found the salad dressing luscious and rich with cheese. The second time, a pungent mustard won out over the cheese and Worcestershire. I liked it; my husband thought the mustard taste was too strong. The romaine was wonderfully fresh and the portions large.
Our entrees were served with a plain, but good-tasting, rice and with a zucchini and onion dish that surprised us with its pleasant, buttery flavor.
On our earlier visit, we had been disappointed with the desserts -- a chocolate mousse ($2.75) that tasted as if it had come from TC mix and an ordinary, dry Spanish cake roll ($2.75). This time, we shared the Flan Espanol ($2.50), a creamy custard in caramel sauce. The custard was smooth and the sauce rich. I liked it better than the earlier desserts, but it will never be a favorite. My husband thought better of it than I did.
I should not forget an appetizer from our first visit, Hearts of Artichoke Sauteed with Ham ($5.25), which my husband found captivating and without a discernible ham taste.
Our dinner, with two cocktails and two glasses of wine, was $68.15. The service, which on our first visit had deteriorated as the meal progressed, was top-notch throughout our later visit. ''Attentive'' would be an understatement. So would "polite.''
Renovation seems to have served Torremolinos well.
*** Torremolinos Restaurant
8 E. Preston St.
Hours: Lunch served Tuesday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.; dinner served Tuesday through Thursday from 5 to 10 p.m., Friday from 5 to 11:30 p.m., Saturday from 5 p.m. to midnight and Sunday from 4 to 10 p.m. Closed Monday.
Reservations: Not necessary.
Credit cards: Major credit cards accepted.
Handicapped access: Not accessible.
Smoking: No separate areas.