Andaluca's new happy hour is called "Spanish fever time." While the food is Spanish, and time is of the essence (specifically, the time between 5:00–6:30 p.m. and 9:00 p.m.–close, Monday through Friday), there is nothing feverish about it. Beginning with the intensely gracious host, rarely has an experience been less frenzied, more temperature-controlled. This man will never notice if one of your party is wearing red sneakers into this haven for the well-heeled, just as he will never take note of the noteworthy couple seated at the central circular bar (older, well-dressed gentleman accompanied by golden-haired woman very, very much his junior and her enormous, expensive-looking gold lamé handbag). Should the few remaining barstools be occupied, the host will ensconce you in a cushy corner of the room's wrap-around banquette, inquiring as to whether this arrangement meets your comfort requirements in a manner both solicitous and entirely charming.
While Andaluca's décor is squarely in the normal range of upscale-generic-sexy (dark wood, low ceiling, not-too-heated flamenco music, and so forth), one element does seem to be the inspiration of a febrile imagination: the completely insane light fixtures. Each one incorporates a glowing, marbled pyramid; dozens of petite crystal balls, each dangling by a chain; tubular appendages that snake out and terminate in either spherical or pyramidal illuminated bulbs, some frosted, some clear; and a metal wheel of indeterminate design affixing the entirety to the ceiling. If you actually had a fever, Spanish or otherwise, these would be a jumping-off point for some fine hallucinations.
The remarkable level of service inaugurated at Andaluca's threshold is maintained by a waitperson who tends to you with assiduous yet unobtrusive care, unremitting despite obvious symptoms that you are only here for the half-price Spanish fever menu. Oddly, no red sangria is available, but a white version takes the drink in a pleasant, summery, peachy direction; the glasses of it are tall, cold, garnished with orange, and $4.25 at Spanish fever time. Pintxos, the impossible-to-pronounce Basque version of tapas, are small in portion but presented in various lovely arrangements on colored glass plates, and nearly the entire menu of nine items can be yours for around $20. If you're not afraid of a little runny yolk, the best by far is the "Lamb Burger Meatballs with Boiled Egg," a Spanish relation of the classic, weird, wonderful drinking snack the Scotch egg: an egg fully encased in a thin layer of herby meat, cooked until the egg is soft-boiled. Another very fine choice: clams and chorizo, here in a smoky, rich, oily broth that's an excellent dip for the complimentary potato bread. A tortilla española is more delicate than usual, served with saffron aioli, and were the giant prawn atop a few bites of paella salted with more restraint, it would be a perfect snack. Chef Wayne Johnson comes out to talk to his guests, his smile radiant, winning, contagious.
Andaluca, 407 Olive Way, 382-6999.