Pintxo Place on College
Perhaps the most anticipated restaurant opening of 2015 was not a restaurant at all, but was Bar Isabel Chef Grant van Gameren’s sister spot, Bar Raval. Open only a few weeks, but perpetually packed at night, I decided that the best approach would be to visit during the day (I know, exponentially less cool). With some of our kids in tow, we hit the small spot for a Saturday lunch.
It was a good thing we did. There are no tables here, just ledges, stools and a few thigh-high barrels, in this corner location that formerly housed Teatro. The room is warm with a gigantic, curvy, sculptured wood bar that seems more architectural than functional. As expected the tapas and snacks are delicious.
An array of pastries from breakfast, both sweet and savoury, were still available when we pulled up to the bar. So we ate backwards and started with coffee con leche ($4) chocolate con pan ($3.50) and some baked treats. The Orange and Honey Donut and the Dulce de Leche and Espelette Pepper Donut ($3 each) were big hits with the kids. I preferred the Pine Nut and Sweet Potato Ball ($2.25) and the Torta de Dehesa and Fennel Pollen Donut -the sweet, faintly anise- flavoured donut had a strong camembert-like cheese surprise centre.
Also arrayed on the bar was a series of small plates of cured meats, cheeses and small bites. So after the treats came charcuterie, cheese and bread. All expectedly delicious; especially the “same as Bar Isabel” boule.
But we were there for the pintxo (snacks) and Bar Raval did not disappoint. The tender Galician Octopus came on perfectly grilled bread ($4). Leek and Romesco ($7 for 2 pc.) was delicate. But the two best open-faced sandwiches were the Stracciatella & Boquerone ($7 for 2 pc.). Pickled anchovies sat atop a light creamy Burrata-like cheese. Also excellent was the Pig Head and Romesco ($8), the roasted peppers and nut spread was topped with a thin slice of the fatty pig head mortadella, shaved fennel and tiny rings of hot pepper. And yes, the kids tried it.
Bar Raval also features canned fish, both imported from Spain and housemade. We tried the house smoked Mackerel ($8) which comes whimsically in a half-open tin. Mackerel can sometimes taste too fishy. But not these bites, that were made to be slathered on grilled bread. The Salchichas Fritas ($7) grilled sausages came with some mustard, and the Tuna Pickle Gilda ($6.90 for 2 pcs.) presented a piece of pickled tuna skewered with an old dill, hot green peppers and an olive.
The food was strongly flavoured and filling. You can definitely eat well on these snacks.The only drawback to attending for lunch is that it was too early (for me) to try the amazing drinks offered by Van Gameren’s co-owners Michael Webster and Robin Goodfellow. But I’d recommend coming by early, before the (c)rush. Bar Raval does not take reservations. 505 College St. Open 8 am to 2 am. For more information visit thisisbarraval.com