When you’re the on-call Our Gourmet, you never know when an opportunity is going to present itself. So when the request was made recently I hungrily volunteered to fill in with The Dining Companion, brought out of retirement, in tow.
Granite Tapas and Cocktail Bar in Hooksett has been on my radar since it opened in 2017, mainly because TDC and I gravitate to places that offer a small-plates menu. There’s something exciting and satisfying about trying a few different dishes instead of ordering one big entrée.
This isn’t a tapas restaurant in the traditional sense. The cuisine is not Spanish, but the restaurant takes aim at the small-plates concept using global inspiration, with a few American favorites also on the menu.
Granite Tapas shares space with several businesses in the Granite Hill Business Center located about a mile north of the Shaw’s Plaza on Route 3/28. We knew from the website that the restaurant was on the left-hand side. What we didn’t know is it is on the second floor. (We climbed the stairs but found out later you can drive around back for a handicapped-accessible entrance.)
When you walk through the door, up the stairs past a breathtakingly large window, the bar is in front of you with seating to the left. The evening’s live entertainment was taking up a lot of space to our right; it appeared that seating had been moved to make room for them.
We were told there would be a wait and that we could sit at the bar until a table opened up, but before we could take a seat they took us to a table in one of the rooms on the right that we thought at first glance were reserved for private functions. We were the only ones in the room — giving us a celebrity — like moment. And we didn’t mind being out of the main space as the noise volume, with the live music, was almost too loud to talk over in other parts of the restaurant.
The overall look of Granite Tapas is striking — contemporary, clean and modern with nods to the state’s granite quarry industry. While many modern spaces can feel cold, there was a warmth here, thanks to the predominantly soft gray color scheme.
Our plan going in was to skip the soups, salads and the few entrees on the menu and instead pick a number of selections from the small-plates section of the menu, where we had plenty of choices ranging from seafood to chicken, beef and vegetable-forward dishes.
We started with the Lobster Rangoons ($14) and Fried Calamari ($14). It was obvious when they arrived that these were more appetizer-sized, which made sense given the price.
The four rangoons, served with sweet and sour sauce, were filled with a sweet — but no overly so — cream cheese filling with chunks of lobster and scallions. Perfectly fried, there was a generous amount of creamy filling and two for each of us was plenty. The rangoons are easily some of the best, if not the best, we’ve ever had. The sauce was a good foil for the dish, which was rich but not oily.
The Rhode Island-style calamari, all rings and served with a spicy remoulade, was chock-full of cherry peppers. TDC and I disagreed on the texture. He thought the rings were bit on the chewy side but I thought they were about right.
Our second round of dishes included the Asian Spring Rolls ($10) and Slider Burger Trio ($16).
I’ll fess up here and say I meant to order the Bulgogi Lettuce Wraps, not the spring rolls, to balance out the fried food from the first round. But it worked out just the same. While they were indeed fried, the spring rolls, filled with seasoned chicken and vegetables, were crispy and fresh-tasting and expertly paired with a peanut sauce. It was a happy mistake.
The burger trio comprised three different sliders: bacon, blue cheese, onion and bourbon barbecue sauce; tomatoes, basil and mozzarella; and roasted mushrooms, Swiss cheese, pickle and mustard.
The mushroom-based slider was the hit of the trio — a great combination of umami, sour and salt. TDC is not a mustard fan but liked it in this preparation. The tomato, basil and mozzarella slider tasted fresh with all the distinct flavors shining through. The slider with blue cheese and bacon appealed the most to me from its description, but the heavy dose of blue cheese overwhelmed the rest of the ingredients. All three were cooked to the medium rare we requested.
We stopped at four plates — we had anticipated ordering more but did not realize how large the plates would be. It also didn’t help that we ordered some of the heaviest dishes. There are lighter choices such as roasted cauliflower, bruschetta, mussels and hummus dip. For their uniqueness, the Salted Caramel Wings also caught our eye.
For dessert, we had a choice of three. We opted for Peanut Butter Pie ($8). It was good, but we’ve had the exact same dessert before at other places, so we wouldn’t call it special.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the extensive cocktail menu, which changes with the seasons. If you are looking for creative concoctions, this is the place. TDC took advantage of one of the local beer selections. I opted for and really enjoyed the Rattlesnake Hill Manhattan ($15) made with bourbon and ruby port. If like us you enjoy making a dinner out of small plates, we encourage you to take a trip to Granite Tapas to enjoy some delicious food. (But if you go on a night when there’s live entertainment, be prepared for a loud experience.)
Stopping by after work for a small bite and a cocktail could definitely reduce stress from a long work day.