Mondays may typically be a slow night for most restaurants.
But not for Teleferic Barcelona in Walnut Creek. Not since the restaurant added a Monday night flamenco show, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., for the entertainment of diners at no extra charge.
Just how well has it gone over?
Hugely, according to Manager Albert Ribera. The restaurant went from serving about 90 people on Monday to a whopping 250.
The restaurant decided to make flamenco dancers a regular weekly attraction after the great response the dancers received on New Year’s Eve.
When San Francisco’s Caminos Flamenco performs, it definitely make for a rousing time, as I found when I was invited in as a guest to the restaurant a few weeks ago.
Teleferic Barcelona is an outpost of the original one in Spain. It opened in downtown Walnut Creek because building developer Brian Hirahara happened to honeymoon in Barcelona and fell in love with the original tapas restaurant there. So he cajoled the owners, Xavi Padrosa and his family, to open one in the Bay Area. In record time, too. In fact, after the decision to come to Walnut Creek was made in August 2015, the restaurant opened swiftly on Jan. 3, 2016.
Chef Oscar Cabezas oversees the kitchen of this energetic, soaring space on the second floor of the building. The restaurant runs a bar on the third floor.
Teleferic Barcelona’s menu had to be tweaked a bit to appease American palates. For instance, a whole fish cooked in a salt crust that’s brought out to the table dramatically, is a popular dish at the Barcelona location. But in Walnut Creek, “Ninety percent of diners didn’t want to see a whole fish,” says Manager Albert Rubira. In Spain, rabbit is a traditional ingredient in paella. But here? “Nobody wants it,” Rubira says. So, that ingredient was taken off.
At the Barcelona restaurant, the tapas are displayed on a long counter. Here, they come to the table dim sum-style on a cart, so you can choose what you like. And they are definitely arranged in an irresistible show-stopping manner.
We went with a cold, diced octopus salad, which was tender but needed a little more seasoning to really pop. It came adorned with a cucumber nigiri-like roll.
The other tapa of crisp Jamon Iberico on a cloud of melted, creamy Manchego was like a gourmet version of ham-and-cheese.
They love their gin and tonics in Spain, and the Catalan one ($11) here is refreshing with grapefruit, more herbaceous because of rosemary, and prettily garnished with a fresh bloom. The Sangria Teleferic ($10) is a lively blend of red wine, gin, brandy, berries, cinnamon and mint, which is made three days before serving to allow the flavors to meld.
Pulpo Teleferic ($16) was a tastier version of octopus, with the arm grilled, sliced and arranged on whipped potatoes with truffle oil. Spanish paprika added an even greater smoky touch. I’m not sure the truffle oil was even needed (I think it’s overused in restaurants as it is), as it really wasn’t detectable.
Patatas Bravas ($8) came with a flourish of creamy, garlicky aioli, and tasted more like home fries than the super crisp potato nuggets I’m used to.
Empanadas ($9) are served like pie pops — on sticks. The empanadas are filled with chicken and served with a spicy aioli that has plenty of heat. When I think of empanadas, I imagine ones with a pastry crust not unlike that of a pie. These, however, are super thin and crisp, almost akin to fried won ton wrappers.
Gambas al Ajillio ($15) are big, plump prawns cooked simply in plenty of garlic and olive oil. With seafood this good, why bother gilding the lily, right?
Another big prawn graced a sample of the Paella Mediterranea ($16), which also had clams, calamari, pork and chicken. The tender, flavorful rice was delicious, though, there wasn’t the coveted socarrat or crisp layer at the bottom of the pan.
Churros Con Chocolate ($8) is one of the best renditions I’ve had in the Bay Area. The cinnamon sugar-dusted cruellers arrive super hot and crisp, with a light yet custardy texture inside. There’s Valrhona chocolate cream, as well as passion fruit sauce, to dunk them into liberally.
For dinner and a show, Teleferic Barcelona is a fun place to check out if you’re in the Walnut Creek vicinity.