First Look: Barlata

While many of Austin’s newer restaurants focus on small plate, or tapas-style, dining, there are a depressingly small number of spots that actually serve authentic Spanish tapas. However, thanks to the recently opened Barlata on South Lamar, locals now have a new spot to feast on an array of Spanish favorites like tortilla and boquerones.

Barlata’s menu features an expansive selection of seafood-rich small plates and paellas as well as a handful of American entrées served with a Spanish twist.The all-Spanish wine list features an impressive number of bottles and wines by the glass (or rather, carafe). The shared nature of tapas style dining makes it ideal for group gatherings, and Barlata’s open, modern atmosphere is a perfect setting to do just that.

Arros Negre Paella - $20

Arros Negre Paella – $20

Our meal started on a high note with a duo of small plates that proved some of my personal favorites of the evening. The all-Spanish cheese plate was a standout because every one of the seven hearty wedges on the plate was both interesting and crowd-pleasing. The traditional Catalan dish pa amb tomaquet, featuring thick grilled bread dredged in sweet tomatoes topped with layers of thinly sliced Serrano, had a nice, subtle balance of sweet and salty.

Pa Amb Tomaquet - $10

Pa Amb Tomaquet – $10

These good vibes continued with both the potato-onion and spinach-manchego tortillas. Though many version of the Spanish omelet dish have a quiche-like thickness to them, Barlata’s are more delicate and thin, something I prefer. Each version was simple, refreshingly unfussy, and perfectly seasoned.

Tortilla w/Spinach and Manchego - $9

Tortilla w/Spinach and Manchego – $9

Not every dish had us fighting over the last bite, however. Served in a sizzling cast iron dish, the gambas aijilo, or shrimp with garlic and adobe, sounded promising enough to order a couple for the table. Unfortunately, we were left wishing we’d stuck with just one because even the bold spices couldn’t shake an off-putting saline aftertaste. While the roasted chicken was tender and moist, the overly buttery skin and heaping side of mashed potatoes made the dish too rich for my liking. Though ever the crowd pleasers, both the mushrooms tossed with pine nuts and currants and the calamari seemed to be a bit of an afterthought.

Gambas aijilo - $12

Gambas aijilo – $12

Pollastre al Forn - $16

Pollastre al Forn – $16

Shakier moments of the meal were quickly forgotten after digging into our final dish of the evening: the arros negre paella (pictured above). The well-executed paella’s black rice was cooked just right – al dente and slightly crispy. Though a tad salty, the squid ink and fish broth mixed with mortar aioli created a rich, comforting base for the tender shellfish. This dish alone is well worth a visit to Barlata.

With so much to choose from, picking what to order can be a bit overwhelming, and our meal would have benefited from a bit more guidance. However, managing service in a place that attracts large groups is certainly no easy feat, especially one with a menu as large as Baralta’s. And though with its mixed bag of highs and lows, Barlata didn’t exactly leave me with butterflies, I still left wanting to get to know it a little better because, let’s face it, any place that dishes out paella like Baralta is worth a return visit.

Barlata, 1500 South Lamar, Austin, TX 78704, 512.473.2211; Dinner Monday-Sunday 5-11pm. http://www.barlataaustin.com

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