Based on everything I’ve heard and read, Barcelona Wine Bar is all about three things: the wine, the tapas, and the atmosphere. The atmosphere certainly lived up to its reputation. The Inman Park hot spot boasts a large, wrap-around patio, a cool bar, and a swanky, wine-filled interior. Speaking of wine, the wine list is not too shabby (or short, for that matter). Barcelona offers a wide-array of wines from all over, with an emphasis on Spanish wines. They also have several wine flights on the menu, providing the opportunity to taste a trio of wines.
The “Garnacha Flight” taught me what I already knew about my unsophisticated wine palate – I like California whites and Oregon reds. The wine service at Barcelona was also painfully slow. Even on a busy Friday night, 20 minutes is too long to wait for a glass in a place that calls itself a wine bar.
As for the tapas, they were my least favorite aspect of the Barcelona experience. We started by ordering four plates, and our server assured us that the kitchen would not bring them all out at once (I cannot stand it when they do that). Three minutes later, all four dishes arrived together.
The whipped sheep’s cheese was the first bite I tried. The cheese was fluffy, creamy, and rich. It was topped with a layer of pistachios and smoked paprika. The strong flavor of the paprika worked perfectly with the otherwise mild flavor of the cheese, and I loved the crunchy addition of the pistachios. However, once you got past the top layer, the flavor of the dish became blah and mundane. Perhaps there was just too much cheese altogether.
Next came the bacon-wrapped dates, which were by far the most delicious thing we tasted all evening. The juicy and flavorful dates were wrapped inside a layer of thick-cut bacon, creating the perfect sweet and savory combination. The textural contrast of the crispy bacon shell with the date was nice as well. We were disappointed by the fact that this dish only came with two dates, and almost ordered another pair for dessert.
We ordered the patatas bravas per our server’s recommendation. This style of potatoes is pretty standard fare when it comes to Americanized-Spanish tapas – diced, fried, and smothered in garlic aioli. The potato chunks were a tad larger than they needed to be, which resulted in a plateful of oversized, not-so-crispy potato wedges. They aioli had a really nice flavor, but they went a little overboard with it – less aioli, more paprika, and crispier potatoes would have done the trick.
The heirloom tomato and mozzarella salad was a nice, light contrast to the first three dishes. During the summertime, few things taste better than vine-ripened tomatoes with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprig of dill. Some red onion and pickle slices complemented the tomatoes nicely. The dish was slightly under-seasoned, but otherwise very refreshing.
Barcelona’s menu offered several seafood dishes “a la plancha”, which is right up my alley. We opted for the salmon a la plancha, served atop a bed of roasted beets. I typically love roasted beets, but the salmon-beet combination was missing something. The dish needed an extra boost of zest to tie the two components together. It didn’t help either that salmon was overcooked and quite dry.
I had high hopes for the mussels al Diablo, as I noticed several other patrons around the restaurant who appeared to be enjoying them. The mussels wound up being my least favorite dish of the evening. They were served in a spicy tomato broth, with a slice of grilled sourdough bread. Normally, my favorite part of a dish like this is using the grilled bread to sop up every last drop of broth. That was not the case with this broth, as it tasted eerily similar to a can of Campbell’s tomato soup. At least it did an okay job of masking the less-than-fresh taste of the mussels themselves.
Of the six dishes we tasted, one was delicious, two were disappointing, and the other three were mediocre. I really wanted to like Barcelona, but one tasty dish in six isn’t a pass rate that’s going to bring me back for more. For many, Barcelona’s extensive wine list and cool atmosphere likely make up for the fact that the food isn’t that great. For me, not so much.