This six month old tapas restaurant, on a side street down from Irish Times, is part of the Pubbelly restaurant group; it offers both innovative and traditional tapas in a sophisticated and fun atmosphere. The star postage stamp logo out front gives diners a clue to its international inspiration; the theme is carried on with three time zone clocks hanging on the wall inside. Wine barrels that double as tables outside, an entryway table made of wine boxes and criss-crossed wooden racks holding wine bottles on the wall, let diners know that wine is given equal weight at Barceloneta.
The atmosphere, with upbeat Spanish music, Mexican tile floors, bare bulb lighting fixtures and communal tables, is casual and fun. Finally, a tapas place to get excited about! Dining is in the Catalan style of Mercat, with a menu of dishes that are perfect for sharing, as well as entrees to be sampled alone. Some seafood (such as oysters) are sold by the piece, other seafood is sold by the pound.
Mixing old style tapas with new twists, the emphasis here is on delicious, flavorful food and creative presentation. Upon being seated, a small white bowl of teeny marinated green olives, was delivered to the table to nibble on while perusing the menu. The menu is divided into: Tostas (toasts), Plats (entrees), Charcuteria y Quesos (meats and cheeses), A la Planxa (grilled) and Menu del Dia (menu of the day) for $15 for lunch.
The Plat del Dia, a prix fix menu sampled for lunch, came with a drink, appetizer, entrée and dessert or coffee, for $21. The tinto (red wine and lemon drink) ordered was sweet and light. The appetizer ordered was a frisee salad. The curly frisee was topped with fried bacon chunks, a hard boiled quail egg and dressed in a lovely light vinaigrette ; it was amazing. The only improvement would have been if the egg had been poached.
The chicken cannelloni, served in a traditional clay tapas plate, was the entrée selected. It featured dark chicken chunks in a béchamel sauce and was blanketed in a nice burnt crust of cheese. It was a rich and filling dish, but did seem more Italian than Spanish. The flan for dessert was heavenly, with ground burnt sugar bits dusting the top of the creamy, crème Brulee style dish.
Fried calamari ordered were light and crunchy strips, served with a black ink aioli, a nice twist on this ubiquitous dish. The Patatas Bravas, fried potato cubes with a spicy tomato sauce, is a tapas staple and Barceloneta’s version was spot on. Golden brown potato chunks were crispy outside, tender inside, doused with a garlicky, spicy sauce and sprinkled with fresh chopped chives.
The mixed mushroom appetizer ordered from the menu del dia on a recent visit, came out steaming hot, in a rich sauce with a nice mélange of mushrooms, skinny asparagus slices and a fried quail egg on top. There was lots of umami flavor in the dish and it pushed the salt to the limit. The clams in broth, ordered as an entrée at the same lunch was also a hit. The tender clams, still in their shells, came in a flavorful broth with onions and garlic; it was served with pesto toast triangles, a nice crunch to sop up the broth.
Service was very good. The young, t-shirted servers were happy to make recommendations from the menu, which can be a little hard to navigate. Water was refilled promptly and servers came to check on how the food was after delivery. The chef also came out of the kitchen to inquire about the meal, which is always appreciated.
The only miss encountered here was the sautéed scallops with zucchini entrée. The scallops were seared, plump and beautiful and came with thin ribbons and little orbs of zucchini. While it looked beautiful, it lacked a bit in the flavor department. A dipping sauce (aioli), or squeeze of citrus, would have been welcome to add some oomph.
The wine list has old world and new wines from Spain and France, including varietals not normally available when dining out. There’s also beer, sangria and a cocktail list featuring: martinis, gin tonics and other assorted drinks. There’s even a lychee martini, proving this isn’t your ordinary tapas place.
Barceloneta is open for lunch, dinner and brunch. They don’t take reservations and it’s not all that budget friendly, with lunch ringing in at $40, although they do have promotionals going on during the week. On a recent day, at an early lunch (12 p.m.), it was rather quiet. Apparently, the word isn’t out yet about this great tapas spot. This diner would return in a heartbeat. If you can’
So if you can’t getaway to Spain this summer, hop over to South Miami and treat yourself to a little taste of Barcelona at Barceloneta.
5850B Sunset Drive
South Miami, FL 33143