Review: Barcelona Restaurant & Bar
As a perennial top-tenner on the best-of lists, Barcelona Restaurant & Bar is a long-standing culinary institution in Columbus. Still, in spite of the restaurant’s long, proud history, it’s also eternally new. While common sense says not to mess with success, Barcelona’s menu is in a constant state of flux, changing regularly to reflect seasonal ingredients and chef interests.
In fact, beyond the mercurial menu, Barcelona’s chef itself changed. After fifteen years, popular chef Paul Yow departed last year to start his own project. Chef Jacob Hough has taken the reigns in Barcelona’s kitchen.
And Chef Hough has continued in the tradition of fine vittles.
The Paella is exceptional. Even the rice itself is rave-worthy, as it’s sodden and soaked in soupy flavor. The most traditional version would probably be the Paella Barcelona ($29); with bite-sized chunks of chicken, chorizo and all sorts of shelled crustaceans and mollusks. Loops of luscious roasted peppers run throughout the mixture like red ribbons.
The Paella comes in several variations -the all-seafood one (Paella de Mariscos, $30) is excellent also, with the addition of plump scallops to the mix to replace the chicken and sausage; though candidly, the chunks of chorizo in the original version made it the table favorite.
For those who prefer more elemental dining, the Pollo Asado is a simpler boneless chicken breast ($26). It comes with some flavorful polenta-worth-eating. The kitchen’s attentiveness to side dishes is notable.
It’d be silly to discuss Barcelona and fail to mention its tapas selection. The restaurant was one of the first joints in town to highlight small plates. Among those plates are opportunities to try a rich variety of cured meats (both ground and intact muscle), and cheeses paired with seasonal fruit.
In the official tapas category, the Croquetas ($7) are something that is both unusual and delicious. They’re fritters, of sorts. If you think of a fritter as kin to something like a hushpuppy or an apple fritter, you’d expect a biscuit dough with stuff in it. Barcelona uses a great deal of manchego cheese in its finger-like fritter, making the base incredibly rich and squishy, it’s speckled with chunks of lean Seranno ham, and served with a hot and sweet mustard.
Almendras Marcona ($6) is another good tapas choice – the roasted almonds define addiction.
Bargain hunters can score a good meal on a budget with Barcelona’s lunch menu. It typically includes some fun sandwiches or wraps. Case in point: the Torta De Brisket ($12) is loaded with succulent, tender meat that’s infused with a fragrant, vaguely Mediterranean flavor, then smothered in Havarti and served with skinny fries. The are lots of other items in that value-priced range: an egg sandwich, chicken wrap, for example.
The service is prompt and very professional; affable but not gushy. And the patio is legendary — June’s a great month to give it a whirl.
Barcelona can be found at 263 E. Whittier Street. Its hours are Mondays through Fridays 11:00am until 2:30pm. It opens again for dinner at 5pm daily, and closes at 10pm Sundays through Thursdays and at 11pm on Fridays and Saturdays.
More information can be found online at www.barcelonacolumbus.com.
Photos by Mollie Lyman of www.fornixphotography.com.