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Four top Spanish restaurants to try right now

Carpaccio crudo at Barcino
Photograph: Virginia Miller Carpaccio crudo at Barcino

For an authentic slice of Spain—whether that means tasty tapas or just an extensive wine menu—visit these Spanish greats around the Bay Area.

 

Contigo, Noe Valley

Contigo has served some of the best Spanish fare in the city since opening in 2009. A love letter to Spanish and Catalan cuisine, the menu features tapas (from silky boquerones to Marcona almond gazpacho) as well as larger plates like the traditional coca (flatbreads) and albondigas (meatballs) paired with Spanish and Portuguese wines as well as Spanish sidra (cider) and sherry. Seasonal dishes like the quail a la plancha, accented with plums, smoked onion and mustard vinagreta, are a must try. And don't forget the stylish decor; The eco-conscious space is lined with wood from a salvaged 100-year-old redwood tree and a wood-fired oven warms the dining room. 

 

 

Ou egg and caviar
Photograph: Virginia Miller

 

 

Barcino, Hayes Valley

The Absinthe Group opened Barcino last month in the former Boxing Room space, a sister restaurant to their popular Spanish haven, Bellota, in SoMa. Though Barcino is also Spanish fare—serving classics such as paella and Iberico ham (jamon)—the focus is specifically on food from Catalonia in Northeast Spain, including an extensive wine list highlighting the region. As with Bellota, there is also sherry and vermut (vermouth) on tap, lovely cocktails and an extensive gin & tonic menu grouped by flavor profiles. The group's executive chef Ryan McIlwraith with chef de cuisine Athman El-Kindiy turn out memorable crudo like the 28-day dry-aged beef striploin carpaccio wrapped around pico (mini-breadsticks) with a dab of tomato jam and black truffle. Salty and decadent, “Ou” is a mound of mini-potato chips doused in Idiazabal cheese crema, slivers of jamon Iberico and topped with a sunny-side-up egg and caviar. 

 

 

Seafood paella
Photograph: Yelp/Ed U.

 

 

Canela, Castro

Canela showcases chef Mat Schuster’s love of Spanish cuisine with olive oil flights, platters of jamon Iberico and lots of manchego cheese. Drink offerings include wines, sherry, vermut (vermouth), sidra (cider) and beers from Spain. The food menu runs blessedly traditional, down to garlic-heavy gambas (head-on shrimp) al ajillo, and stuffed piquillo peppers bursting with wild boar, sheep cheese and potato. Look for seasonal goodies like fried, stuffed squash blossoms and Spanish cheeses, available to order in platters of two to five selections. Canela also hosts occasional low proof cocktail classes for those who want to whip up their own cocktails at home. 

 

La Taberna, Napa

La Taberna is your quintessential Spanish tavern where tapas are handwritten on a chalkboard; Rotating features include pulpo (octopus), saffron patatas (potatoes), clams romesco and iconic Jamon Iberico for under $10 each. In proper taberna form, drinks are a huge part of the draw here. Besides craft beer, there is plenty of sherry, sidra (cider), vermut (vermouth) and wines from Spain as well as California. On the low proof cocktail side, try Portuguese staple, Porto Tonico, which has been on their menu from day one, before White Port & tonics started trending nationally. 

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