Sunday, August 30, 2009

Tapas at Barrio

Spanish Tapas
August 29, 2009
10 ish pm

After watching an amazing movie, Julie & Julia, I have been inspired to do what already 99.9% of the American population has already done…….wait for it……..start a blog.

Ahhh, yes I think I can actually hear people clicking this page closed and internally groaning “not another one”. Yet, that does not stop me nor 99.8% of other bloggers. We have something to say, and who cares if only my husband is reading it (thanks honey!), we’re going to write it.

But unfortunately Julie & Julia did not inspire me to do something amazing like work through a cookbook, blog about 100 restaurants in 100 days, or travel to 30 destinations in 30 days (and yes, my heart did soar when hearing about the Jet Blue pass for about one nanosecond before I remembered that I have a full time job that I do depend on for sustenance. The curse of not being independently wealthy forever follows me).

What I’ve decided to do is chronicle my rare evenings out to dinner. Not much brings me more joy than getting to dress up, driving around town, and trying out a new place to eat. However, I’m also pretty health and money conscious so I attempt to limit my habit to one time per week and if I happen to go to an event or house gathering with friends that often counts as my “night out”. This results in my habit being fed just a few times a month. But I almost think this makes it better. This makes me prioritize the dozens of restaurants I’ve yet to try and dream about what the experience will be like. This makes the picking of the restaurant become almost as fun as the actual experience. On the other hand this also makes the heartbreak of a bad dinner out all the more painful, but luckily I don’t have a ton of those experiences.

But enough about what this is all about, let’s get on to the food!

My husband and I arrived at Bario around 10 pm. I was immediately impressed with the airy feeling the open windows gave the place as we drove around the block to park. It is definitely reminiscent of a Mediteranean style bar. The parking was close and the attendant nicely asked if we were going to Bario and then gave us a 10% off coupon when we said yes. However, we promptly forgot to use the coupon when paying our bill and thus my love/hate relationship with the coupon continues, but that story is for another time (and I hear you hoping it’s not going to be a blog story). Regardless, it was a nice gesture on the part of the parking attendant.

The place is busy, but not overly crowded and we are promptly seated with no reservation. It is a mostly 20 to 30 something aged crowd, which probably has something to do with being out to dinner at 10 pm more than anything else. There are groups of friends enjoying food and drinks and quiet couples enjoying each other. The restaurant is on the darker side, which seemed to encourage intimacy. There is an evening chill in the restaurant due to the open windows, but I have a jacket and I wouldn’t want to give up the fresh, airy feeling in place of a few degrees of warmth. There are too many months in Ohio when the windows HAVE to be closed, I’m not for giving up any time when they don’t.

We quickly get started looking over the menu and try to decide on a drink. I’ve been craving a sultry red wine and begin to look over the list. Now, I have drunk my fair share of wine, but I am by no means an aficionado. I try to learn more with each bottle I buy and glass I order, but pairing food with wine is something I am a novice at. So at this point, I pick what sounds good and then evaluate my choice with my meal later.

The wine list was not extensive, but seemed to have a great sampling of Spanish and South American wines. I tried a glass of the Veleta Nolados from Spain. It is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Tempranillo. I must say this is now one of my favorite wines. When the glass was placed in front of me you could already smell the bouquet. The smell was heady and luscious and I couldn’t wait to taste it. The taste did not disappoint! Smooth and velvety texture, but not too thick. Fruit flavors, but not overwhelmingly fruity. Elegant, with a touch of acid in the finish that slightly cleansed the mouth. Pure heaven for me and everything I look for in a red wine. Now I just have to figure out who sells this locally! I am already imagining myself popping open a bottle as I start to braise meet for a stew.

We immediately order the Spanish olives to start. We were truly trying to relive the bar scene in Italy, where we spent 10 days this past summer. I imagine Spain has a similar style, but so far it's still on my travel to do list. There were a good number of olives with a mix of green and brown, large and small. They were topped with some shaved queso fresco. Overall, they did their job. I felt I was back in Italy enjoying a drink after a long and blissful day of sightseeing. I will say the olives didn’t taste quite as fresh as they do when you get them in Italy, but I don’t think there is any way to help that given the length they need to travel!

Next up, we tried small plates of the beef tacos, crab and goat cheese empanadas, and papas fritas (French fries).

The beef tacos were wonderful. Three soft tortillas served with chopped beef and a pickled cabbage and jalepeno slaw. Yum, yum, yum! You assemble the tacos yourself and there is enough beef to make 3 very generous tacos. I must say I was impressed with the quality of the beef. I had expected something ground, and the chopped texture was a nice surprise. The pickled cabbage added a hint of sweetness and the jalapeno added a bit of flavor pop, but not too much heat. Just excellent, overall.

The crab and goat cheese empanadas were also good (3 to an order), but I wouldn’t call them excellent. The pastry dough was done to perfection. Light, flaky layers with just the right amount of chew and fried just right. However, it was the filling that didn’t make me jump up and down. You could definitely taste the crab in the filling and the goat cheese made the texture wonderfully creamy, but I couldn’t pick out any more flavors and overall I felt it tasted a little bland. Some extra flavor in the mix would have bumped it up a notch.

Our third plate was papas fritas, explained as fried potatoes on the menu. Now technically they are fried potatoes. However, when I think of fried potatoes I think of potatoes cubed and fried with various seasonings. When I think of long strips of potatoes fried, I call them French fries. Now maybe I’m being nitpicky, but I was expecting fried cubes of potatoes with Spanish seasonings. What I got was a big plate of French fries. Had I known I was ordering French fries, I think I would have tried something else. I’ve eaten a lot of French fries, I haven’t eaten a lot of traditional Spanish food.

That being said, none of this stopped us from eating every single fry they gave us. The fries were fabulous. Skin on and slender, they reminded me of a less thickly cut fair fry, but not nearly as greasy as most fair fries. The outside had a nice crunch, while the inside was creamier. The fries were served with a sherry vinegar aioli and topped with chopped garlic and herbs. The garlic added a nice bite of flavor to the fries and I was so impressed by the taste of the aioli. The sherry added an unexpected sweetness and the consistency was so light and airy. I would love this on a turkey sandwich or various other foods. I may want to drink it straight! However, I did not love it on my fries. I tried it on a few fries, but it did not make me want to go back for more. The aioli was so delicate and light that I felt the garlicky fries overpowered it too much. I needed a sauce with a little more acid to cut through the strong taste of the fries. I know serious chefs everywhere will be cursing me, but I would have preferred ketchup.

Bill total (2 glasses of wine, husband’s gimlet, olives, 3 tacos, 3 empanadas, and fries, including tip): $65

And that’s it for Barrio. Would I go back? Definitely. Will it be soon? Probably not, unless some friends invite me. I have a long list of restaurants to try out and precious little time for dinners out.
Overall Rating: 4 Buckeyes
Barrio on Urbanspoon

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