Michael Bublé was singing romantic ballads when I strolled into this Andalusian-style tapas bar in the heart of the Red Light District with a few friends in tow. While Shakira or Enrique Inglesias might have provided a more appropriate musical backdrop for Olivar's Spanish decor and menu, the Canadian vocalist underscored its chill vibe. Inside the sleek, dimly lit interior, traditional blue and white ceramic tiles glimmered below a wall hung with Flamenco guitars and art depicting Spanish musicians. In the rear, Spanish sausages were aging around a chef preparing Spanish classics.
Rather than sit at the bar where you can watch Andalusian delicacies come out of the open kitchen, we opted for the intimacy of a small table with a view of the street scene. In summer, there's waterfront seating overlooking boats searching for the narrow gate leading to the open water of the canals in de Wallen.
Olivar's tapas menu is limited but includes the usual suspects: gambas al aioli, patatas bravas, tortilla de patatas, Spanish chorizo and calamares fritos. Nothing exceptional, but the Rioja is fine, service is attentive (for Amsterdam), and you can fill up on shared tapas plates,for under €20pp. A full selection of entrees includes Spanish favorites like Merluza a la Navarra, Estofado de Jerez and a paella that requires a half-hour wait. If you're looking for a quiet respite from the buzz of the Red Light District, where you can linger over dinner with friends, Olivar fills the bill.