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 Houston that I would return to. I mean, boiled new potatoes topped with mayo and plates like that. Here at Rioja, I love the garlic soup with a poached egg, the really flavorful, fresh grilled sardines (which were deboned at the table for my husband, but not for us girls...I guess we looked capable), and the baguette topped with serrano ham and drizzled with good quality olive oil, which nearly gave me the vapors. I did, in fact, swoon the evening I ordered the grilled baby lamb chops. And then there was the lunch when I ordered the grilled sushi grade salmon from column 3, which was quickly grilled and served quite rightly as still sushi internally, and stifled a moan since I was in polite company. Choose 3 tapas from 3 columns at lunch for $13.95. Overall about 30 choices. With the complementary bread, you will not go hungry. Lunch at Rioja for my husband and I precludes dinner that day. Some dishes we were not so fond of include the camelized egg yolk dessert, which had little flavor and the cod stuffed piquililo peppers. Being anglophiles and cheese hounds we liked the cheese plate (offered as an appetizer), and the broiled goat cheese and Romesco dip. I haven't tried the french baguette sandwiches, because I can't get past the tapas. I will try again today and persist until I reach that goal. Meantime, Viva Spain!! Viva Rioja!
Pros: Fresh, exciting combinations at value prices
Cons: Closed Saturday for Lunch - Boo!