Barraca: Spanish flair in Blue Star

Try the piquillos rellenos - MIRIAM SITZ
Try the piquillos rellenos

Barraca, the latest addition to Blue Star’s growing arsenal of restaurants, brings a taste of Spain to the Alamo City. Tucked away behind Stella, this tapas and paella bar by chef Javier Flores presents simple, rustic flavor profiles in an intimate setting. Flores led the kitchen of La Fonda on Main as executive chef for seven years. After a two-year cooking hiatus, he opened the Iberian-tinged food truck Cheeks and Chops, a weekend regular at Alamo Street Eat Bar, and now delves further into the realm of Spanish food with Barraca.

Barraca’s portion sizes are somewhat larger than one might expect from a tapas restaurant. Ordering three tapas plates or a paella provides a sufficiently filling dinner for two. The food covers Spain’s greatest hits, with tomato bread, a Spanish tortilla and jamón ibérico all making an appearance on the menu.

The bar has six beers on tap, a handful more bottled, and a respectable wine list with selections from Spain and beyond. The restaurant offers both red and white sangria, though the sweet red departs from the Spanish tradition by omitting the pieces of floating fruit.

The patatas bravas shine among the tapas. An outstanding bright orange aioli dresses up the thin-sliced, browned potatoes. It’s a winning combination–though a bit more aioli wouldn’t hurt. Likewise, the piquillos rellenos come together beautifully. A drizzle of balsamic vinegar and olive oil with basil folds into every bite of tender, supple pepper, tempering the bold flavor of the duck carnitas stuffing. With four piquillos per serving, this one is great to share.

The gambas al ajillo miss the mark. The components of this dish fail to blend in a cohesive way, despite being fresh and properly cooked. Slices of fennel root, slightly pickled onion, sections of orange, slivers of avocado and lightly seasoned shrimp–each ingredient stands out separately but none meld into a larger flavor theme. On the Spanish tortilla, a layer of thick, slightly spicy tomato sauce redeems the otherwise forgettable dish. The savory spread brings a nice flavor and some welcome moisture to the tortilla.

Barraca’s namesake paella, with duck, lamb, pork belly, chorizo and mussels, is as beautiful to admire as it is delicious to eat. The duck and lamb, both falling off the bone, are flavorful, but not too gamey. The melt-in-your-mouth pork belly proves a welcome departure from the crispy, almost bacon-like treatment that has become the norm for this cut of meat.

The paella vegetariana is also right on the money. The rice, with subtle buttery undertones of tomato, plays a much more important role in the paella vegetariana than in the Barraca. Slices of squash, tender artichokes, clean mushrooms, mild piquillo peppers and segments of thin asparagus all arrive steaming and perfectly cooked.

The ingredients of Barraca’s food speak for themselves. Sometimes this approach yields delicious results–the piquillos, the paellas–but other times, as with the gambas al ajillo, it falls short. Nevertheless, it’s unpretentious and uncomplicated food made for eating. Flores notes that the menu will vary slightly with the seasons, hinting at a forthcoming oxtail soup. Barraca, you’ve got my attention. Let’s see what you become.

Barraca Paella & Tapas Bar

1420 S Alamo, Ste 101
(210) 445-2203

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