In today's continuingly straitened economic climate, dining on a handful of small, inexpensive courses as opposed to two or three big ones can seem quite a clever way of tricking the wallet into believing it hasn't spent too much. Although Barcelona Tapas doesn't offer the definitive solution to our economic woes, it does offer a moderately priced distraction from them.
Barcelona Tapas offers a very agreeable way to spend an evening of eating and drinking, all in a single location. The décor and ambience are old-world in tone: there's a vibrant, clattery, ceramic tiled, brightly-colored environment that so perfectly contrasts the wood-clad steakhouse feel that's so prevalent in this town. It's an atmosphere that's conducive to sitting around and enjoying the air of conviviality, without feeling the pressure to move on.
The best way to approach Barcelona is to pick a few cold dishes, then move on to the hot, and then maybe enjoy a shared paella dish, in this case made with authentic rice from Valencia.
Barcelona Tapas offers a large variety of small dishes, hot and cold, in an attempt to cover all the bases that might (in Spain) otherwise be offered by a stroll through a number of different establishments. The tapas menu could have been culled from the classic cookbook on the subject by Penelope Casas, published in 1985. Although some of the plates may seem a bit antiquated now, the strong sense of tradition pervades everything.
On a recent visit the pimiento roasted almonds, ($4.95) for instance, were crisp and pleasantly firm to the bite. A taste of Manchego cheese with quince paste ($5.25) was a simple but evocative taste of the real thing: quite satisfactory with its appealing contrast of sweet and savory, always a classic. The Albondigas (Spanish meatballs, $6.25) although somewhat more replete with filler than the classic model, were still most agreeable, offering a savory taste of their forbears, smothered as they were in a fine, savory tomato sauce.
Slightly disappointing was the bacalao (salt cod, $6.75), which displayed none of its characteristic firm flakiness and tangy sea salt flavor. Instead, it was overwhelmed by mashed potato and excessive breading. Using a higher quality salt cod would definitely help here. The anchovies, the fresh unsalted kind ($6.25 for four fillets), were served on a bed of fresh basil leaves, and delivered a fine salty, briny character, quite unlike their tinned cousins.
The deep-fried artichokes ($6.25) were slightly overcooked: just a bit too over-done for the ingredients to be fully identifiable.
Most welcome was the excellent selection of drinks: the wine list is well balanced and thought-out, with fine offerings from top importers such as Ordonez, Solomon and Classical Wines. The Estrella lager is actually from Barcelona, and makes a delicious accompaniment to this form of dining.
With more attention to detail, higher-quality ingredients and careful research, Barcelona could easily improve its standards and rate a higher rating. I look forward to future visits.Barcelona Tapas
201 North Delaware Street
Lunch 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Dinner 5 p.m. – 11 p.m. Food ***