Bulla, which mean “buzz” in Spanish is the latest gastrobar to join Coral Gables. It combines many of the latest trends- big and small plates to be shared, inventive tapas and cocktails- in the former location of Por Fin.
Parking can prove to be a challenge a lunchtime, but there is a public parking garage across the street on Andalusia. Valet parking is also available.
The entrance to Bulla is also slightly confusing, with no hostess stand apparent. Instead, there’s a booth inside the entrances (Ponce and Andalusia) where the hostess resides, waiting to seat diners.
The atmosphere is fun, light hearted and casual with upbeat Spanish music playing, an open kitchen and communal dining. It is less formal than Por Fin, but still serious about good food. On a recent visit, Bulla was filled with couples, families, business people and foodies.
On the bar side of the Gastrobar, options are: beer (with a handful of craft beers), cocktails, sangria, sherries, sparkling wines and Spanish red and white wines. The Albarino ordered by the glass ($10) was, as promised, light and crisp, perfect for balancing some of the rich dishes Bulla features.
The server was helpful in explaining how the menu works (dishes meant to be shared) and for making recommendations. First on the agenda was Bulla’s signature dish- Huevos Bulla ($10). This holdover from Por Fin (it was Eggs Por Fin) is a delicious mixture of lightly fried egg, homemade potato chips, Serrano ham, potato foam and truffle oil. This dish, a mixture of salty, crunchy, foamy, with the golden organic egg running all over the mix, is reason enough to pay a visit to Bulla.
The codfish fritters, a Spanish tapa staple, was another winner with the light, golden fritters served with a pink romesco sauce. The crunchy fritters had a homey taste of mashed potatoes and were not all fishy or greasy. These Bunuelos de Bacalao were eight dollars.
On another visit the dates with bacon (Datiles con Beicon) were sampled ($10). Five dates, stuffed with walnuts and wrapped in bacon were served with a cabreles (blue) cheese dipping sauce. It was yummy, as was the Tartar de Atun for $13.
Ahi tuna chunks were mixed with mango and avocado chunks and bound in a soy sesame vinaigrette. It was presented as a work of art- the multi colored cube, adorned with green pea shoots was set atop black slate, with a brush stroke of white, Greek yogurt sauce accenting the plate. This dish was fresh and light, with a mix of textures and flavors making it one to be sampled again. The yogurt sauce, while an attractive contrast visually, added nothing to the dish, tastewise.
Some of the other appetizers available are: a traditional Tortilla Espanola ($7), Ham Croquettes with fig jelly ($7) and Gambas Al Ajillo- sautéed shrimp with garlic ($14).
In the meat section (Embutidos), there’s Jamon Serrano, cured Iberian pork loin, different sausages and, for those wanting to splurge, acorn fed Iberico ham for $28.
The cheeses, which pair well with the wines offered, are all Spanish and range from Cabrales blue ($8), to smoked sheep’s milk ($6) and Garrotxa- a Catalonian goat’ s milk cheese ($7). For those opting a less adventurous route, there’s Manchego ($7)- the Spanish version of Cheddar.
Sandwiches are offered with the option of adding a garden salad or patatas bravas (potato cubes) for an additional two dollars, turning it into a more substantial meal. The Lomo ($8) recommended by our server, was a hefty sandwich, cut in half with bread reminiscent of ciabatta. The pork was well seasoned and tasty, topped with caramelized onions, sautéed red peppers and arugula. It was a hearty sandwich, but, between the thick slices of pork and the chewy bread, a little difficult to eat. It was ordered with the potatoes- small, golden cubes drizzled with two sauces- aioli and spicy brava- which were crunchy and hot.
For diners looking for lighter fare, salads are offered. Among the recommended options were the Ensalada de Cochinillo (shredded pork, cabbage and fried potato cubes) and grilled octopus salad for $13. The Ensalada de Gambas ordered ($12) was a grilled shrimp salad with shaved fennel, grapefruit slices and avocado puree. The crunchy fennel blended nicely with the tender pink shrimp, and the grapefruit provided an ascetic touch. The puddle of guacamole, was a nice surprise underneath the salad, although a little salt would have been appreciated. There are no salt and pepper shakers at the table.
There are only four entrees to choose from (Platos Fuertes); so clearly Bulla’s focus is on the tapas. Grilled pork loin, chicken breast, grouper and oxtail are the offerings (from $12 to $14) and they come with a garden salad.
The service was very good. A server arrived immediately after sitting down to offer water, which was quickly refilled throughout the meal. The servers also came to check to see if everything was satisfactory after the dishes were served and the check came out promptly.
The only miss may have been the churros, which were ordered with American coffee. While lovely looking golden strips, the inside was a little undercooked and doughy. They were served with warm chocolate and caramel sauces on the side.
The restaurant that was in this space before- Por Fin- meant “at last”. It took a long time to open, had a good run, but now is gone. In its place is Bulla- a fun place with good food, drink and great service. Go and see what the buzz is all about.
2500 Ponce de Leon Boulevard
Coral Gables, Florida 33134