Barlata on / November 2013

Chef Olivella has created a menu that highlights all the goodness that Barcelona has to offer.

Early last month some friends joined my husband and me at Barlata for dinner and I am still reveling in the experience. The space designed by Michael Hsu is distinctive and modern. The owners, husband and wife Daniel Olivella and Vanessa Jerez, worked with Hsu to create an open environment with added touches of Spain throughout. The bold interior mural by Austin graphic designer Ryan Henneesee is a tribute to the popular Spanish comic strip, Mortadelo y Filemón. The splashes of red and organic shapes in the overall space are evocative of Barcelona.

Chef Olivella has created a menu that highlights all the goodness that Barcelona has to offer. The menu is broken down into five sections: Latas (small tins of gourmet, ready-to-eat food), Comida Fria, Comida Caliente, Platos, and Paellas/Arroces/Fideos. Since tapas are meant to be shared, we all sampled each plate ordered from nearly every section. A plate of Spanish olives was a logical starting point and a good item to nibble as we sipped Vicius Albariño wine (recommended by friends at a nearby table). This lovely Spanish wine is aged in bottles at the bottom of the Atlantic for a time, imparting a very slight touch of salinity that is addictive. We tried two other items from the Comida Fria section of the menu–Shrimp and Avocado with gazpacho vinaigrette and Ceviche of Shrimp, Octopus and Scallop. Both were fresh and delicious with the luscious flavor of the sea.

From the Comida Caliente section, we started with the Mussels with sofrito, peas and pancetta. This was one of my favorites. The combination of ingredients was nicely balanced, playing well off of each other and the mussels were perfectly cooked. Another item we loved was the Braised Oxtail with red wine sauce. Deep, complex and full of rich flavor, we were all impressed by this dish. The Grilled Lamb Brochette with cucumber salad was another winner. The bold, grilled flavor of the lamb was a good contrast to the cooling nature of the salad. The final item we tried from this section of the menu was the Perdiz al ajillo, or Quail in garlic sauce, Cooking quail can be difficult, but the kitchen had it under control. It was very tender and well seasoned.

Our server urged us to try the Arros Negre and it is good thing we took her advice. Black rice, squid, clams, sepia squid ink, mortar allioli and fish stock all came together in this very classic Catalan dish with a twist. Not a bit was leftover. I am very curious to find out what their paella is like; a must try for a return visit. With weekend brunch and happy hour Sunday-Thursday, a return trip is inevitable. A common Spanish saying present on the restaurant mural is, “Barriga llena corazon contento, A full stomach makes for a happy heart.” That proverb is very apropos to our time at Barlata. Muy contento. (Cathy)