Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Back for Seconds: Barlata Tapas Bar

This is an occasional report on return visits to restaurants that I’ve already reviewed.

Settling in Nicely in Temescal
4901 Telegraph Ave., Oakland
Temescal neighborhood
PH: 510.450.0678
Open daily, 5 to 11 p.m.
No reservations, major credit cards accepted

Original visit: March 2009

I was happy to see the addition of Barlata and its Spanish tapas in the Temescal neighborhood in Oakland when it opened earlier this year, and recently I returned with my neighbor Joe for an early Sunday dinner.

The interior remains fresh and festive, with the brightly colored decor and a long chalkboard menu on one wall.

Everyone had the same plan as we did and arrived early for dinner, so the room was already packed. But we only had to wait about 20 minutes before a table opened up.

(An interesting observation is that the room was very packed when we started to eat, but by the time we left around 8 p.m., which I consider the prime dining hour, there were quite a few open tables. So maybe eating early isn’t necessarily the best bet here.)

Looking at the restaurant’s all-Spanish wine list, I went for a different wine than the last time and selected the Marques de Campo Nuble crianza, a Rioja. It was well-rounded and full of body, but went nicely with my meal.

It was the first time for Joe at Barlata, so we ended up getting a couple of dishes that I ate the last time. But I also pushed for some new items.

Joe got the soup of the day ($5), which was butternut squash. It was a beautiful color and well seasoned, but the texture was a bit thick. I did like the drizzle of olive oil on top.

The Xato Salad Frisee ($8) was a beautiful plate of frisee mixed with bright orange bonito tuna chunks with salted cod and olives. A couple of anchovies lay on top. The dressing was a light tangy vinaigrette that balanced well with all the ingredients, which were everything I enjoyed in a salad so this was a winner in my book.

Pincho Moruno (Lamb Brochette, $7) were two skewers that lay on top of a cucumber salad and topped with a red pepper sauce. I thought the lamb was perfectly cooked and still had the slight, deep lamb flavor that I like. The cucumber salad was a refreshing counter to the intense flavoring of the lamb.

Mar I Muntanya (Lamb Meatballs with squid and chocolate and tomato sauce, $8) was a dish I had last time and enjoyed, so I recommended it again for Joe. Even though we already had the lamb skewers, the meatballs were slightly different with the chocolate-tomato sauce and the squid on top. The flavor was a bit lacking this time from what I remember, with less oomp.

Lata de Chipirones (Baby Squid Stuffed with Fennel Sausage with ink sauce, $8) is another repeat dish. I really remembered the interesting presentation in the lata can and the tasty sausage stuffed inside the squid. This dish was perfect once again for its taste and presentation.

A new dish we tried was the Gambas Ajillo (Tiger shrimp with garlic, olive oil and adobo sauce, $10). Apparently, this is a popular dish to order and it creates quite a commotion when it comes sizzling on a platter onto your table. The women next to us watched it settled down and asked us if the shrimp were spicy. After a few bites, we told them they weren’t but that they were very tasty. Despite the fiery color, the shrimp had a stronger garlic flavor with just a hint of Spanish seasoning.

All the small plates added up to a fun night of eating a variety of dishes at an excellent pace. The servers didn’t rush us and they brought out — at the most — two orders at a time so that our table wouldn’t get crowded.

After two visits, though, I felt like I’d nearly tried everything I probably would order on Barlata’s extensive menu, which made me hope that more seasonal dishes will be introduced down the road for some variety.

Still, Barlata continues to draw the crowds, and the combination of Spanish wine and delectable tapas is leaving a strong mark on this emerging foodie neighborhood.

Update experience (previous 3.75 stars): Holding strong at 3.75

Barlata on Urbanspoon

Related posts:
Barlata: Small Bites Make a Big Splash in Oakland
César: Spanish Flavors Wake Up Piedmont Avenue
Laïola: Scrumptious Small Bites with the Neighborhood Crowd


foodhoe said...

Single guy, the early dining definitely meant you had great light, the pictures of food look so delicious! Yet another restaurant I have to try...

Carolyn Jung said...

Meatballs with squid and chocolate AND tomato? Wow, that's a very intriguing combination. Was the sauce kind of mole-like. (and I don't mean the critter; I just can't make an accent mark. Hah!)

Single Guy Ben said...

Foodhoe, if you go to Barlata, give me a ring since it's in my hood! I can get there in 10 minutes!

Carolyn, I haven't eaten a lot of mole so can't say if it compares. The sauce didn't taste sweet or very chocolate-ly, but was thick. Maybe you should try it and let me know! ;-)

foodcreate said...

Fabulous Tapas! Great Photos!

Thanks for sharing :)

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