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First Impressions: Barcelona Tapas & Bar

I try my best to avoid Southern Highlands like I do the plague and motion pictures starring Larry the Cable Guy.  I can’t quite put my finger on it, but every time I enter the gilded gates of The People’s Republic of Southern Highlands, I leave hating both city planners and white people in general just a little bit more than I did before visiting the faux Summerlin (also a significant ick).  However, in the spirit of good journalism and a current infatuation with tapas and all things Spanish, we decided to go forth to the Land of the Entitled and visit the new Barcelona Tapas & Bar.

Barcelona Tapas & Bar Menu

Barcelona Tapas & Bar Menu

Having a coveted corner in a strip mall location, Barcelona Tapas & Bar is an inviting space, even with its holdovers from the previous tenant, one of those Hurricane Chicken Wing joints.  The Wife and I were greeted with smiles and happiness. Obviously the workers are still in the honeymoon phase before they become bitter and jaded by prick customers with lofty demands.

Bread with Fire Roasted Chick Pea Puree

Bread with Fire Roasted Chick Pea Puree

Slightly buttered, slightly toasted bread came to the table with an unremarkable orange-colored sweet pseudo-butterish kind of thing, and also what I can only describe as a Fire Roasted Chick Pea Puree. It was fabulous.  The charred smokiness flavor combined with the chick peas was really quite yummy and thankfully continued a hot streak I’m on of going to places that give you uniquely tasty things to slather on bread.

Estrella Damm Beer from Barcelona

Estrella Damm Beer from Barcelona

Instead of going for the sangria, I decided to change things up by going for a new-to-me beer in Barcelona’s (the city, not the restaurant) own, Estrella Damm.  It’s a lager style beer which I found to have a bit of an apple taste to it.  I usually hide under the table when it comes to fruit in beer, but I found the Estrella Damm to be tasty and a good alternative to sangria if one should ever have the rare desire to not have sangria.

Our very attentive server took the first round of our food order which included; Pan Fried Dates, Stuffed Piquillo Peppers, Camarones Ajillo, Mar y Monte, Albondigas, Mac and Cheese and Boquerones (White Anchovies).  While the menu also offers a few entree sized dishes, including the requisite paella ($20), we stuck to the tapas since that’s why we want to go to a tapas restaurant.

Pan Fried Dates

Pan Fried Dates

The Pan Fried Dates ($5.50) are a favorite of The Wife and I, and a must get at every tapas restaurant we go to.  This variety was stuffed with almonds, wrapped in bacon and in a merlot reduction with blue cheese crumbles.  Well made and very tasty, we eventually wound up getting a second order of these.

Stuffed Piquillo Peppers

Stuffed Piquillo Peppers

Another favorite of mine were the Stuffed Piquillo Peppers ($7.50). Stuffed with a luscious blend of Goat, Feta and Cream Cheeses, these were quite good and a must get for every return visit here.

Boquerones from Barcelona Tapas & Bar

Boquerones from Barcelona Tapas & Bar

In the continuing efforts to eat shit that I would normally not eat, I ordered the Boquerones ($5.50) which were White Anchovies on a French bread slathered in a spicy aioli then topped with a balsamic reduction and some peppers.  One of the ingredients desperately needed to be taken away (my vote is for the spicy aioli), as the flavors of everything obliterated all tastes of the anchovy except for the fishy finish, which I wouldn’t think is the desired effect.

Camarones Ajillo from Barcelona Tapas & Bar

Camarones Ajillo from Barcelona Tapas & Bar

Another total miss for me were the Camarones Ajillo ($10), which is also usually on my must get list at any tapas establishment.  The shrimp, although had god flavor to the shrimp themselves, were overcooked and stringy.  The garlic butter sauce was in desperate need of acid and salt.  Usually it is done with lemon or lime or a combination of the two, and this one even proclaimed lemon on the menu but none was to be found.  Without the lemon and adequate salt, the sauce just tasted of faint garlic and blah.

Mar y Monte

Mar y Monte

The Surf and Turf Skewers, or Mar y Monte ($10) featured chorizo, shrimp and steak with a tomatillo sauce on it.  The shrimp here were much better prepared than our previous dish, although the steak portion was also suffering from the under-seasoned bug.  It was less of an issue here with the pungent chorizo and flavorful tomatillo, but just a pinch of salt would have elevated the Mar y Monte from an okay dish to a must get.

Mac and Cheese from Barcelona Tapas & Bar

Mac and Cheese from Barcelona Tapas & Bar

Albondigas

Albondigas

When you put manchego cheese, bacon fat and noodles in a bowl, you really can’t go wrong, and the Mac and Cheese ($7.50) didn’t disappoint.  The Albondigas ($5.50), however, could have used a few days vacation to loosen up and get a little more tender.  Flavor was ok, just a few notches too high on the toughness scale.  Keep in mind too that I’m a demanding prick when it comes to meatballs, and I’m sure they’d be perfectly acceptable for most, and for $5.50…why not!

As if this wasn’t enough food, we insisted that our lovely server scribble down a few more items for us to pick at.  While the food came out fast and furious during our first round of gorging, the second round was a different story.  We ordered another round of the dates and two new things; Spicy Pork Scaloppini ($8.50) and the Tilapia with Lime Juice and Capers ($6.00).

Spicy Pork Scaloppini

Spicy Pork Scaloppini

The dates came out fast, and were even better than the first round which were delicious.  We waited a while for the pork, which really, pork is usually worth any amount of wait time.  For my personal tastes, this pork wasn’t, with the seasoning heavy on the oregano and rosemary.  To me, oregano and rosemary are like pubic hair on a female; I prefer none, although just a tiny bit is fine in certain situations.  The Wife enjoyed the pork as her tolerance for oregano and rosemary is much higher than mine.  I will not speak as to her preference in pubic hair for fear of spending the rest of April sleeping on the couch.

After the long-awaited pork came out and was eaten, we still had no Tilapia.  With a marathon of Sex and the City pulling at us to leave, we gave up on the Tilapia at about the 25-30 minute mark and told them to not bother.  It wasn’t a big deal to us, and we tried to not make it a big deal, we just figured we’d part ways for the evening and give the tilapia a shot on a return visit.  The owner however took a round of drinks off our bill and personally came over to the table an apologized.

I found this to be remarkable and for it to speak volumes as to the quality of the experience the owner wants his guests to have.  He had no idea who I was (and even if he did, really…who am I?) but he was sincerely apologetic for something that was no biggie and even went the extra mile by comping us a couple drinks.  The Wife and I would have made a return visit regardless of the generous gesture, but it’s things like this that stick with you and give you hope that self-accountability really still exists in America.  If we weren’t fidgeting to see Carrie and Mr. Big run into each other all over again, as well as quite satisfied from our bountiful feast of tapas, the extended wait for the fish probably wouldn’t have even made the brutal spotlight of this post.  I almost feel guilty for the free rounds, but if there is anything I learned in college, it is to never turn down free beer.

For its great service, spot on pricing and mostly good food, I say unto you; go forth, brave the pretentious assholishness of Southern Highlands and eat at Barcelona Tapas & Bar.

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Barcelona Tapas & Bar
10690 Southern Highlands Pkwy. #100
Las Vegas, NV 89141

(702) 483-5764

http://www.BarcelonaTapas-Bar.com

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Mike Dobranski is a professional musician, amateur blogger, eater of good food, poker junkie, master of the inappropriate comment and bad husband to a wonderful wife. Follow him on Twitter at @MikeDobranski.

Follow Tasting Las Vegas on Twitter at @TastingLasVegas

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7 comments to First Impressions: Barcelona Tapas & Bar

  • YES! I have had this happen at places, too, and wondered if they had any idea who we were?? Probably not on the first visit, but after they read the review, there’s no way they can’t *know* who you are!! Next visit, you’ll probably get something more than just a round of drinks!!

    (I have a bad feeling when I hit “submit” that blockquote attempt will be thwarted!!)

  • Quoted line was: “He had no idea who I was (and even if he did, really…who am I?) but he was sincerely apologetic for something that was no biggie and even went the extra mile by comping us a couple drinks.”

  • Still trying to decide to give this place a try…
    Your info is most appreciated, but I too, dread wasting the time and calories on places in places where I don’t like to tread…
    But your descriptions sound like some of the dishes are worth it (although some clearly aren’t) and I always wonder if these little joints have the legs to survive in our fickle economic (and gastronomic) environment.
    Thanks for the post and for the reconnaissance.
    And btw: Your camera doesn’t do your food reporting justice!
    ;-}

  • Hey John -

    I’d like to see you give it a try just because I’d like to see what you think! There’s nothing there that is Earth-shattering, but they do have some good things and the prices are reasonable. Firefly is a little better and a smidge cheaper, but for those that are in a close proximity to Barcelona, I think it is a good addition to their neighborhood.

    We were there around 7pm (I think) on this past Friday, and they seemed to be doing decent business. Nice people working there and running the ship.

    Yeah, I know the pictures suck. I take all the pictures with my iPhone. I like to be as inconspicuous as I can, and I figure they add “charm” to the half-assed production we’ve got going on over here! Ha! Thanks for visiting, John! I always appreciate your comments and feedback!

  • Hey Lisa –

    It doesn’t even matter if someone recognizes me, I got recognized at Carnevino and we still got treated like shit! The Power of Total Unimportance! LOL I gave them a pretty hard slap on the wrist here, but Michael completely crucified the entire Mario Batali Empire here. I take full credit for getting Michael to change his original title (he discloses it in his post). Phew!

  • Thanks for the thorough review. I have to ask two questions. Why the hatred for Southern Highlands? I’ve always wondered why folks feel that way. Second, Did you notice children in the establishment? I try to pick child friendly places and one of the things that stuck out to me was the portion size and lack of children size dishes. Just curious. Thanks in advance. I know how much time these posts take to put together.

  • Where do I begin on my hatred of Southern Highlands…. Well, one of the big problems is that it is nearly impossible to find anything there if you aren’t from there and know the street names or have an in-dash navigation system. They put the street signs too far back, cover them with trees and/or bushes and don’t light them. Just as you slow down to try to get a look at a street sign, some Range Rover flies up your ass on Southern Highlands Parkway and makes my blood boil.

    Southern Highlands is pretty much the mecca of the faux nouveau riche lifestyle, too. It just makes my skin crawl. Collagen-injected lips, mini-dogs stuffed in Louis Vuitton, and catastrophic crises when the masseuse is 15 minutes behind schedule is not my cup of tea.

    I wouldn’t think any tapas restaurant is really all that kid friendly, although it depends on the kid. Tapas are small portions, so that would be kid friendly, I just don’t know about the flavors and the atmosphere.

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