Barlata – A Texas Tasty Review

Justin Rei Ago

Tapas and Seafood

Who knew Happy Hour Could Lead Into a Spanish Experience?

As I was FaceTiming a good friend, we conversed about our need for wanderlust. We fantasized about the thought of Europe, especially along the coast.  Sipping on Aperol spritz, eating fresh seafood, and getting away from the hustle of American life.

Dreaming of the food led to the reality of a craving. That’s how we ended up at Barlata.

As someone who loves tapas and seafood, I was shocked that I haven’t been to Barlata. And as a fiend for happy hours, I’m further surprised they weren’t on my bucket list. Their happy hour is all day on Mondays and that is my favorite way to start my week.

What drew me to Barlata is their offerings of Paella. I love a good paella because of the difficulty of preparation and the attention it needs for the ingredients.

I was able to be squeezed for a reservation. As soon as my friend and I arrived, a waft of saffron and Spanish cuisine waved upon my face. There’s a sensation when I immediately smell the cooking as I walk into a restaurant. It reminds me of walking into my grandma’s kitchen and knowing that I’m about to have an amazing meal.

The Menu

I instantly noticed the many options that were on Barlata’s happy hour menu. From simple Spanish olives to grilled lamb brochette Moroccan style, I had difficulty narrowing down on what to order. I was for sure ordering a Paella, but choosing from the 6 variations was also difficult.

The first thing I ordered was the Paella Barceloneta. Kept it simple as it was their seafood paella. My friend ordered the Paella Barlata, which included chicken, chorizo, seafood, and vegetables (which was a close 2nd option for me).

This blew me away and succeeded to fulfill my craving. The spices penetrated each grain of rice where each bite made me truly feel like I was in Spain. The seafood was fresh although I wish they kept the shrimp un-peeled with the head on as how it would be traditionally served. Also don’t expect a big serving as the layer of rice is thin. Overall, this paella is phenomenal and became one of my favorite Austin dishes.

And Even More Food

Our next order was the mussels with pancetta and sofrito which I highly recommend. Sofrito, which means “to lightly fry” in Spanish, is a unique pairing with mussels. I’m normally used to simple white wine and garlic but the sofrito adds a fragrant kick to the ocean taste of the mussels.

Our next round included croquets and brussels sprouts. They were once described to me as “mozzarella sticks but mashed potatoes.” While it doesn’t fully describe Barlata’s version, it comes close. The filling is combined with Iberico ham (THE best ham in the world) and serrano peppers. Crunchy on the outside and soft and decadent on the inside. I loved the kick from the peppers and the bite-sized ham pieces were perfect. As far as the brussels sprouts, they were good and simple but nothing extraordinary.

My seafood craving continued onto the “Yucatecan style” ceviche, a combination of gulf shrimp, octopus, and avocado. Typically, I’m accustomed to ceviche with white fish such as red snapper and shrimp but I love octopus and thought I’d try a different style of ceviche. This ceviche was good and my favorite part was the octopus but I still preferred a fish-version of ceviche.

Our last dish was the St. Louis style sweet & sour ribs. Even though it’s a non-traditional tapas dish, I enjoyed this dish. I simply dragged my fork down and the meat fell off the boat easily. The sauce was indeed sweet and sour and unlike a typical BBQ sauce.