Matamoros at 31 de Octubre, Downtown-Centro. 222-0510/223-0831
Noon-11:30pm; Friday and Saturday: 5:30-11:30pm; Sunday breakfast 9am-2pm
Since 2000, chef/owner Bill Carballo from Chicago and trained in Spain runs a place he built to share various cold and hot tapas as sizzling spicy shrimp ajillo, baked goat cheese, layered beet salad with goat cheese, potatoes aioli, grilled calamari, bacon-wrapped dates, marinated Mediterranean olives, mushrooms with chorizo saffron cream, tuna cannelloni, curry chicken salad, layered vegetable timbal, Serano ham and La Mancha cheese, gazpacho, chicken croquettes, shrimp bisque and full plates as rosemary chicken, cumin pork, Angus beef or pork brochette, 3-cheese eggplant, beef short ribs, paella Valenciana or mariscos, tortilla Española [omelet torta with potato, onion and garlic] and ice creams as rich, creamy coconut, crème brulée, fried bananas, profiteroles and housemade red or white sangría. Dine on lovely 4th floor terrace up staircase with panoramic Bahía and city views, inside 3rd floor dining room and in 1st floor patio Tapas Bar with live music in high season. Awarded Virtual Vallarta 2011-2012 “Best Spanish Restaurant.” Amex Credit Cards accepted.
The 2013 May Restaurant Festival began its 17 night extravaganza with diners assembled at Barcelona Tapas for a glorious start to the upcoming experiences. We were presented a fantastic three course menu for only 189 pesos. One diner with food allergies was accommodated marvelously. Bill joined our table sending sample plates around the group. As the sun set with oranges, pinks, pale blue and reds, we conversed and discussed the various flavors to which we were being introduced. The fresh housemade breads this night were a country style aged sponge (recipe using no oil) and focaccia perfumed with rosemary. Extra virgin olive oil and vinegar were in side dishes for dipping. Accompanying plates were aioli potato salad – garlic mayonnaise flavored.
Three appetizers were offered to start the festivities. A creamy earthy puréed mushroom soup was warm and delightful. A beautiful house salad was composed of mixed lettuces, goat cheese, fresh firm pear slices, tomato, onion, pecans and tossed in a balsamic vinaigrette. Each morsel was a combination of the flavors. Lastly, two luscious cannelloni were stuffed with ground fresh tuna, white wine mayonnaise and generously surrounded by an outstanding fresh chunky tomato-basil with a touch of vinegar.
Saffron rice was the first main plate, strongly resembling a paella, with plentiful shrimp, calamari and octopus atop. This is the signature dish of not only the restaurant but Bill himself. Marvelous and round with various spices and textures. Chicken skewer was a brochette with boneless chicken breast chunks alternated with potatoes and colorful peppers. Aioli enhanced the simply pure production. Three-cheese eggplant reminded one of noodle-less lasagna, along with zucchini forming the separating layers. Goat, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses oozed from the “pasta” wedge covered with housemade tomato sauce enhanced with several fresh herbs.
Crème brulée has become the desired finale here for its very near perfection in technique and application. The low dish held soft rich custard topped with a properly prepared crisp golden brown crunchy crust. Housemade ice cream is always a special treat here with the creamy creation made in a large stainless steel maker. Some nights it may be coconut, bittersweet chocolate or vanilla. Sautéed bananas were smooth and nicely soft. Drizzled around the fruit was a thin caramel sauce.
A nice touch was noted on the menu: calorie conscious but flavor loaded items are offered not only for dieters but for many frequent diners who could stand less calories, salt and fat. One guest raved about the deliciously seasoned mahi mahi fillet with bright green properly cooked spinach, seemingly jumping from the garden.
This destination is one with a certain place on the list of places to return, combining good food and wine, wide gorgeous vistas and fine service.
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Gary R. Beck