Telefèric Barcelona Opens With A Sizzle in Palo Alto
There’s no doubt that Palo Alto’s Town & Country Village is a happening place. Just try to park there most any time of day or night, and you’ll be hunting for a parking spot because that’s how busy it gets.
Now, it’s bound to get even crazier than the long lines there for Boba Guys. That’s because the new Telefèric Barcelona just opened its doors last week, with plenty of Spanish flair, pulsating music, and flaming cocktails lighting up the dining room.
It’s the second Bay Area locale for the Telefèric Barcelona Restaurant Group of Barcelona, joining the original Telefèric Barcelona that opened in Walnut Creek in 2016.
Brother and sister, Xavi and Maria Padrosa took over the original restaurant in Barcelona, which their mother had started. They were lured to bring their concept stateside by a Walnut Creek developer.
Xavi Padrosa had long wanted to open a restaurant in Palo Alto, a city close to his heart since he lived there for seven years while attending Foothill College in Los Altos Hills and Golden Gate University in San Francisco.
The contemporary Palo Alto restaurant is all clean lines with a long bar, sleek open kitchen, colorful Spanish tiles, and basket-like light fixtures. When it’s full, as it was for a friends-and-family and media dinner that I attended the night before it opened to the public, it can be very loud. You will have to lean over the table to converse with your dining companion.
You’ll be greeted with a cherry “hola” when you step up to the host stand. A good number of the staff are from Spain, which makes you feel transported indeed to Barcelona.
Spanish-born Executive Chef Oscar Cabezas oversees both the Walnut Creek and Palo Alto locations, getting around to both locations. But Palo Alto also has its own executive chef, Spanish-born Eva de Gil. The menus are similar at both locations. But having dined at both now, I think the food in Palo Alto is superior. For every dish to be so on point even the day before opening, is saying a lot. But that was the case with my meal.
The cocktails are very easy drinking, as Xavi Padrosa explained about Spanish preferences. Not overly potent with hard liquor, they definitely go down easy. With Telefèric Barcelona, there’s a dose of fun and theatrics that go along with the drinks, too. The Mojito Dali ($12) is a blend of rum, lime, mint and strawberry that arrives with a “fairy cloud.” It’s a fluff of cotton candy. The server pours some liquid over it and it melts into the drink in a flourish. The Catalan G&T ($13) may not get that table-side finish, but it’s as refreshing as it gets with grapefruit, rosemary and gin, plus pretty to boot with a garnish of an orchid in the glass.
For even more of a show, order the BurningMan Rum ($19 per person with a minimum of two required). A server will roll a cart to your table to blend the Spain-meets-Caribbean cocktail, then flambe it. It’s heavy on rum, a generous amount of cinnamon, and plenty of orange. It reminds me in taste of sangria, but one that’s very orange-forward. This would be great tasting at brunch time, too.
At the Walnut Creek locale, carts are rolled to the table holding skewered tapas. That night, the skewers of Spanish tortilla, fig-green bean-cheese were just carried to the table on trays by servers.
Pulpo Telefèric ($17) is a signature dish, and if you’re an octopus lover, you won’t want to miss this version. Imported from Galicia, the octopus is incredibly tender yet its edges are wonderfully crisp in all the right places. The tentacle, already cut for easy eating, lies on a bed of pimenton potato puree. There’s a hint of truffle oil. But thankfully, just a hint.
Salmon Tartare ($12) arrives at the table with more showmanship — it’s covered in a glass cloche that has smoke inside. The server lifts it to unveil the round of tartare, creamy with diced avocado, and spicy and sharp with plenty of onions and lime juice. Crisp round crackers stand at attention, their bottoms stuck into a wedge of cheese that’s like a Spanish version of cream cheese in texture and mildness. I can’t say I detected any smoke flavor on the tartare after all of that. But then again, I’m not sure raw salmon needs that added flavor anyway. I’m not sure the cheese was needed, either. Still, it was a novel addition to tartare. And if you like creamy indulgence, you can lavish it on.
Crispy Porca ($17) is stunning, with charred rounds of corn. Roasted in the oven for four hours, then finished on the grill, the meat is juicy and tender, and the cap of fat, glistening and crispy.
All the paellas serve two, and take 35 to 45 minutes, as they are cooked to order. The Paella De Carne Y Setas ($38) arrived in a red-handled pan, a thin layer of rice dotted with asparagus, wild mushrooms, chicken thigh chunks, and pork ribs so tender you could push the meat off the bone entirely with the tip of a knife. The rice was al dente — tender yet with a nice chew. There was also a little layer of crisp rice at the bottom right at the center of the dish, the hallmark of a paella done right.
If you can’t choose just one dessert, go for the trio ($16). It comes with a creamy flan infused with orange; slim, crisp churros with chocolate dream to dunk into; and torrijas. The latter is based on a recipe by the Padrosa matriarch. Xavi Padrosa smiled as he recounted how it’s one of his favorite things his mother makes. It’s easy to see why. A Spanish version of French toast, the baton was golden and crisp all over, and light-as-air custardy inside. It’s as if angel food cake were turned into French toast.
The Palo Alto locale also has something the Walnut Creek one doesn’t — El Merkat, a gourmet grocery store. It’s stocked with wines, beers, bomba rice, tinned seafood, cured meats, and everything else you’d need to make paella or any Spanish feast at home.
Start looking for a parking space now, because I predict this restaurant will prove insanely popular. Welcome to the neighborhood, Telefèric Barcelona.