Bar Lata - Oakland
Tried it a few weeks back and liked it a lot. Nice to have an alternative to Cesar's on occasion ... plus it felt a bit more authentic--not necessarily better--than Cesar's to me (esp. the patatas brava, but I like that style better than the wedges at Cesar's). The highlight of our meal was the two-hour octupus -- the best octupus I've had all year (and maybe since being in Spain/Italy a few years back ... or when Oliveto had the dried octupus pasta that one year for the Oceanic dinner). Absolutely great.
re: The Dive
Oh yeah, I really wanted to try that octopus too. But we already had so much squid and cuttlefish in our choices. I love that there are so many different names in Spanish for various squid types and sizes, made me think of Eskimo words for "snow".
We had two vegetarians sitting next to us in the alcove. They didn't seem very happy with their meal and I overheard one say that she would go back to Cesar before here. Anyone cruise the vegetable dishes (besides the tortilla)?
re: Melanie Wong
Oh my goodness, Cesar does not have good vegetarian options at all! Other than the cheese sandwich (which is delicious), the potatoes, and the cheese plate, and maybe one vegetable dish, almost everything at Cesar has meat or fish in it -- http://www.barcesar.com/piedmont/dail... ...okay, a soup and a roasted vegetable dish, and it's just as I thought before looking at the menu. I mean, I enjoy Cesar a lot, but when I've been with vegetarians, they have a hard time putting together a meal.
After reading Jasmine’s post that three generous plates satisfied two people, I’m a bit embarrassed to report my visit on Saturday. Accompanied by my Catalan culinary consultant, this was a first time for both of us. We got one of the last two-tops a little after 7pm. Our first table was in the middle of the room with a clear view of the jamon secure in the holder on the counter top. But we soon opted for the privacy and lower decibels of the alcove to the side of the bar so that we could converse. Our server greeted us in Spanish, and that continued to be the lengua of the evening, which added to the atmosphere for me even though “fideuà” doesn’t roll off my tongue easily.
We ordered leisurely during our 2.5+ hours here and ended up with nine plates, seven glasses of wine, but no sweets. With the small table size, we had a hard time managing when our initial four came out. Best to limit yourself to three plates at a go to have enough space for the bread and olive plate, water, and a couple wine glasses. I couldn’t believe it when the busser then squeezed a candle onto the table top!
Put me down in the camp of those who found the olives delicious. Meaty, savory and bright with citrus, then again, I would have liked a little more of the marinating juices to have with the bread.
Here’s what we tried, in the order served.
Boquerones with pear and Idiazabal, $7 – I love Spanish marinated anchovies. But I would have enjoyed them more as a stand alone, I think. Four little filets were layered with thickish slabs of bitter-skinned, hard Bosc pear and topped with shaved Idiazabal cheese then drizzled with olive oil, none of which enhanced the flavor of the anchovies or vice versa. Bad concept, skip this one.
Lata de chipirones, baby squid stuffed with fennel sausage in ink sauce, $8 – The “lid” of a toasted slice of rustic bread brushed with olive oil and parsley perched on the can was great for catching the dribbles of inky sauce. The peas added the needed light and verve. As others have mentioned, this “surf and turf” is quite tasty.
Lata de piquillos, seafood stuffed piquillo peppers and pimenton sauce, $9 – Again, the saucing was great, creamy sweet paprika-spiked deliciousness, making it hard to not fill up on bread. However, the overcooked seafood inside the peppers was as rubbery as pencil erasers.
Brandada, salted cod cazuela, roasted garlic, mashed potatoes and walnut oil, $8 – A pleasant enough baked version served warm, a bit undersalted for my taste but I liked the crusty top and sides, and we managed to polish it off. No soggy toast problems.
Based on these first four dishes, we were kind of ho-hum. It did cross my mind to just settle the tab and head to one of the nearby Korean places that have air conditioning for the balance of our meal. We soldiered on, luckily, as four of the remaining five dishes were exemplary.
Grilled sardines, red onion and fennel salad and parsley picada, $8 – At long last, something to get excited about! Perfectly cooked with nice marking from the grill and moist rich flesh accented so well by the fresh green notes of the parsley picada and the citrus dressing of the aromatic fennel and sweet onion salad.
Hounds seem to be having a hard time “wrestling” with the bones, so let me offer some instruction, as it only takes three seconds to remove the skeleton. Make a small slit along the spine at the head end and gently lift the edge of the flesh with the tip of the knife. Place your fork tines under the edge of the flesh to hold down the skeleton, then coax the filet off the bones with the tip of the knife working toward the tail end and following the angle of the rib cage. Sardine bones are quite feathery and flexible, and they angle backwards toward the tail. The soft flesh will come off easily, almost bouncing off the bones. Set aside the first filet. Then lift up the head end of the skeleton from the flesh underneath with the tip of the knife, place your fork to hold down the flesh, and then use the knife to pry the skeleton backwards to zip it off the second filet. For some people, it’s easier to turn the fish over and remove the second half the same way as the first. If you miss a bone or two, they’re soft and not likely to choke you.
Clams sautéed with chorizo, baby white beans, sofrito and white wine, $9 – Not so crazy about this dish either. The clams were dessicated and tiny, barely worth working off the shells. The elements didn’t pull together well, although I did enjoy the burst of salinity biting into the diced chorizo.
Habas a la Catalana, fresh fava beans, morcilla, sofrito and mint, $8 – These fava beans wow’d both of us. Having someone else prep fresh favas for me to eat is always a welcome luxury. These were more delicious still mingled with the earthy nuggets of blood sausage, the sofrito binding together the many elements. The sweated onions had softened but still had some juicy crunch for another textural contrast. The exotic lift provided by the fragrant fresh mint took this dish over the top transporting me toward the Moorish flavors of North Africa.
Cocochas, sauteed Atlantic cod cheeks, garlic, parsley, chili, and fino sherry, $8 – Another beautifully executed, generously proportioned dish, subtle in flavor and at first underappreciated coming after the more assertive habas. The firm cod cheeks were perfectly on point cooked in pil-pil style, just enough to give up their rich fish gelatin to thicken and emulsify the buttery sauce, turning opaque but not flakey. Split cloves of soft garlic swam with the cod cheeks in the liltingly piquant sauce kept bubbling hot by the cazuela. F pronounced this very true to the Basque original. Tasting the leftovers yesterday as a topping for my morning jook, the sherry flavor in the saucing made a much stronger wine-y statement.
Fideuà negre, noodle paella, shrimp, squid, sepia, squid ink, and allioli, $12/small – Even though we were more than full, I had to try this dish. Short pasta called fideu replace grains of rice for a lesser-known cousin of paella. F explained to me that some heathens will boil the noodles separately, however, the art of fideuà is to cook everything in sequence – the stock, seafood, noodles - in one pan. I mused that this must be akin to “fermented in this bottle” of the methode traditionelle as a mark of quality. Crusty around the edges and bottom, this seemed as if it had indeed been prepped in this small paella pan. When it arrived at the table, I served myself and picked up the whole shrimp with my fingers to eat it. The tail of this shrimp was so hot, I dropped it immediately and plunged my fingers into my glass of ice water to ward off a serious burn. So, be careful. The firm noodles were stained inky black, infused with briny shellfish flavor, and perfectly al dente. Small cubes of chewy cuttlefish (sepia) and tiny rings of fresh squid were scattered through the noodles. The dab of alioli had the soft and creamy texture of hand-worked. I loved everything about this dish, singed fingers notwithstanding, and what I took home made the blackest and tastiest of breakfasts the next morning.
Winewise, our first round was a glass of San Leon manzanilla, $6, and one of Gonzalez Bypass amontillado, $6. The manzanilla was served chilled, but the amontillado was at room temp, or about 80 degrees on Saturday night, and not in good form at all. For the next round I switched to the Gran Barquero fino, $6, which was a bit coarse and lacking much influence of the flor. The San Leon was better, but not as rich and fresh as other times I’ve had it, and I couldn’t help but wonder if the wines are kept poorly or from old bottling lots. For Cava, we enjoyed glasses of the Dominio de la Vega rose’, $7, which was a deep cerise color, bubbling over with strawberry fruit, and quite intensely flavored.
I did ask F how he felt this compared with B44. He used to eat there regularly, and has not been for a few years. He said that B44 at that time was a notch above Barlata with more consistency across the menu. Maybe that will come with time here.
re: Melanie Wong
No defense needed . . . other than I felt quite piggy in comparison to you!
I haven't seen any reviews of the food from the print media yet, just opening announcements. The two plates that I'm interested in hearing about are the roasted pigs feet terrine and the asparagus & vegetable canelones, if anyone's tried 'em. F said that the folks in Barcelona invented canneloni and are miffed that the Italians take the credit. :)
Dropped in on a Wednesday night late-ish. No wait for a party of 2, choice of table or bar. Like others have said, the service was very good, low-key, friendly, there when you need them. The acoustics are a bit hard, and with a large party at the communal table the volume was almost an issue, and it probably would have been an issue if I had been there with a larger group. As it was, my daughter and I managed OK.
I thought it was a deal. 4 dishes, 1 glass of wine, shared dessert, espresso: $60 w/tip. We had Pa amb tomaquet, Ceviche, Tortilla Española, and small plate of Seafood paella. I'm with RL on the free olives they start you with. Really tasty and unlike any olives I've had. The paella was the star of the show. Packed with lots and lots of seafood that gave it a deep, intense flavor. The tortilla was also very good, though the potatoes were not as chunky as we like (my DD and I have been making this at home a lot recently) but the flavors were excellent. The Pa amb was unknown to us. I was expecting some sort of bread salad but instead it is more like a bruschetta with a tomato coulis topping. Tasty and a deal at $3. The ceviche was a minor disappointment. Maybe I'm used to a different style? I like a more citric, lighter treatment -- like they have at Limon Rotisserie. Some of the seafood pieces, I think it was the octopus, had a too-heavy texture. The flavor was good, but the consistency and texture were not to my liking. Minor quibble. I gobbled it all down. We cleaned our all of our plates!
Overall I was very pleased with both the food, the ambiance, and the price.
Stopped here on Friday night for a quick bite: the prices are low enough and the servings sizeable enough so that three plates were enough for the two of us. We got the tortilla, which was excellent and pretty large, the patatas, which were delicious cubes and nicely fried, and the lata of mussels, which were house cured. The mussels were a little to vinegary for me, and needed a little more balance, but I still liked them. Three dishes and a glass of wine were $29 -- the wine prices by the glass are pretty great. I definitely want to try more of the menu, and the staff was really nice and friendly. It's pretty loud in there, especially at the communal table, but the tables by the windows might be better.
Went back yesterday. Menu seemed longer. Three of us shared a tortilla (improved over last time), brandade (great again), morcilla with white beans (excellent), oxtail (great), a small serving of arroz negre, and gamba ajillo (good), plus four glasses and one bottle of wine, $100 before tax and tip.
We would have spent a lot more for that much food and wine at Cesar. I like the small portion of arroz negre, I love that dish but don't need to eat a ton of it.
I highly recommend the 06 Pares Balta Mas Petit (Penedes). Delicious and a good value at $6 glass / $28 bottle. Their pours are so generous I wonder whether it's actually cheaper by the glass.
I like the decor. Nice relaxed atmosphere. Friendly staff, good service, especially considering it was their first day.
The complementary olives were excellent. I particularly liked the big ones flavored with lemon and anchovy, which I hadn't encountered before. The brandada bacalao ($8) was the best olive oil-based version of this dish I've had. Sardines lata ($8), marinated in smoked paprika and fresh thyme, were very good. Marinated mushrooms with pine nuts ($7) were good but I prefer the hot a la plancha style Tortilla ($7) was good. The couple at the table behind us had (with their third bottle of wine) the steak with chimichurri sauce and it smelled fabulous. The menu includes my favorite dish from B44, arros negre (a sort of paella made with squid, squid ink, and a ton of garlic).
Had a bottle of the cheaper cava ($25), which was quite good--I know from B44 that chef-owner Daniel Olivella is good at finding the best values among the hundreds available. The Altun Rioja riserva ($10 glass) was well-made but too new-world for my taste. I much preferred the 2002 Dehesa ($5 glass). One of my companions had the Mas Donis ($7 glass), recommended by the waiter, and liked it. I like how the by-the-glass wines are served in little carafes for easy sharing.
Their Web site says they do not take reservations.
This is a great addition to the neighborhood. I was happy to see a good crowd, hope it holds up.
re: Robert Lauriston
re: Melanie Wong
re: Melanie Wong
There are three sherries
- Tio Pepe fino 6
- Gran Barquero fino 7
- San Leon Manzanilla 7
The ports and other wines on the dessert menu are
Gran Barquero Pedro Xamenez, Montilla 7
Alvear Solera Cream, MontillaMoriles 8
2003 Pansal del Calas old vines garnacha, Montsant 10
2005 Dulce Cristal-li moscatell, Vins del Comptat 8
Bermajo Malvasia Dulce, Lanzarote 12
1948 Fondillon Solera, Alicante 19
NV Quinta de la Rosa late 601 6
2003 Quinta de la Rosa Lbv 9
Domain La tour Vielle, Banylus 9
Anything interesting there?
There are 11 white wines offered , four of which are offered by the glass
There are 25 red wines offered, six of which are offered by the glass
re: Robert Lauriston
I'm no connoisseur, but the creamiest, most decadent paella I ever had was a squid ink paella at Alta in NYC. If this "arros negra" is anything like that, then I'm excited to try it!
Reading your report (and looking at the website), the prices seem maybe just a touch cheaper than, say, Cesar (which I like, but always feel like is overpriced--plus, I think the paella at Cesar is terrible!). Certainly the selection is a lot wider. How are the portion sizes, as far as bang for the buck is concerned?
Cesar's portion sizes vary from tapa to tapa, the items we had at Barlata were all smallish.
Barlata's tapa prices range from $4 to $10, Cesar's from $8 to 10.
Barlata's by-the-glass prices are cheaper, $5-10 vs. Cesar's $7.50-12.50. I'm not sure if the markup's any different, Cesar may just stock more expensive wines.
How the values compare, I"m not sure yet,.You could get out of Barlata cheaper if you ordered carefully, and you could spend a lot more at Cesar if you hit the high end of the wine or liquor lists.
re: Robert Lauriston
Had a nice meal here tonight. Liked the Brandada, which others mentioned. Another standout was our waitress's rec, the Lata de Chipirones ($9)--two baby squid (just the body, no tentacles) stuffed with fennel sausages and served with a black ink squid sauce with some sweet peas. The squid was nice and tender; the sauce was really tasty. We also ordered the Arros Negre (squid ink paella), which was quite good. I liked that there were some nice crunchy bits at the bottom of the pan. The $12 portion was plenty for two to share, especially with all the other dishes we ordered. (There's also a larger $19 portion.) The other highlight was the chorizo plate ($8)--At least two different types of chorizo (server said there were three, but I may have missed some nuance), one sliced thick and grilled (?) and the other sliced thin and served almost like a fancy salami, topped with good olive oil. I was tempted by the Jamon Iberico option on the menu, but at $16, that was a bit too rich for our blood--would love to hear if it's worth the minor splurge if anyone tries it.
Wasn't as impressed with the mushroom lata or the patatas bravas. The potatoes were a bit bland and not crisp enough. Come to think of it, I don't know if I've ever had patatas bravas that I particularly liked, so I don't know why I keep on ordering the dish. =)
After tax and tip, the bill came out to about $80 for two (with a glass of wine each), which isn't cheap, but I guess par for the course for tapas. Service was very friendly and low-key. The food didn't blow me away necessarily, but it was quite good, and I definitely want to go back and try some of the other options...
re: Robert Lauriston
Went to the opening last night. Nice place. Solid food. Not straight ahead Spanish but still pretty nice tasting. We had Tortilla-Nice but a little undercooked on the potato, good aioli, Brandada de Bacalao-creamy rich, could have been hotter, browned on top for me, Lata de setas/Mixed mushrooms a la plancha, tasty earthy, Lata de sardines/House cured sardines-this one was sort of surprising, lots of Pimenton, in a good way and not overly cured like they sometimes are.
Their funny gimmick is the "Lata" which is a can. Bar Lata taking the gourmet canned food from Spain concept and making it "in house" then serving it in a can. Its pretty cute.
Oh and they had an awesome olive that tasted like an anchovy stuffed olive but lemony and juicy with the pit still in. Delicious but a little bit of a surprise in your mouth!
Try it-I have a feeling its going to be swamped.
Huh, interesting. Not sure how they are going to fit that many tables (and a communal one) into that space. My memory of Biggums Silver Lion is that it was very, very tiny. Or, it could be that it was dark and crowded and I was always drunk? : )
Thanks for the info; sounds promising.
BIGGUMS Silver Lion to you :)
From Roadbikeaction.com, JRL, Josè Luis Rubiera is a partner of the b44 guy.
"RBA: So will you now retire at the end of the 2009 season? I understand your program will include the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta, but no Tour De France.
JLR: We'll have to see...I’m not sure what lies ahead. And I have a project I am working on your readers in America might be interested in...
RBA: Whats that?
JLR: I am opening a tapas bar in Oakland, California called bar Lata; that means "the can," like a tin can. It’s at 4901 Telegraph Ave., at 49th Street, near Claremont Ave. It’s in the Temescal neighborhood. We will open in February.
RBA: Wow how did that happen? Oakland is a long way from Gijon!
JLR: Well, first of all I really love San Francisco...it is a really fantastic city! I was there a few times to race the SF Grand Prix. That was a really great race, too. So in 2003, I met a guy from Barcelona named Daniel Olivella when I was there. He owns a great Spanish restaurant in San Francisco called B44 on Belden Place. That's a cool little street in the Financial district of San Francisco filled with good little restaurants. Anyway we got to know each other over the years and just hatched the idea to open a tapas bar. There are not that many good Spanish places in the Bay Area and we are going ahead with Bar Lata tapas bar! Olivella told the SF Chronicle recently "I'm going to try to be authentic Spanish," says Olivella, who is, of course, authentically Spanish by birth. Bar Lata backers include his partners in B44 and Chechu Rubiera, a Spanish professional cyclist. Olivella has taken over the old Silver Lion and has transformed it into the casual 60-seat Bar Lata, with a communal table, an all-Spanish wine list and moderately priced wines by the glass. The menu will be tapas heavy, with perhaps 10 hot selections and 10 cold ones, three or four paellas and a few small main courses. Chechu proudly told Road Bike Action “Originally I was going to be at the opening we have planned for January 2009 but now I will be in Australia racing at the Tour Down Under. After that we have a training camp in Santa Rosa, California so maybe I will invite the Astana boys down to La Lata for some tapas!"