Dining Outside at Teleferic Barcelona Los Gatos
If there’s any doubt that Covid has long entered the everyday lexicon, look no further than the new Teleferic Barcelona in downtown Los Gatos, where the new Prime Wellington gets its own vaccination tableside.
It’s all in good fun — and flat-out deliciousness — of course. When the golden pastry-wrapped roll of mushrooms duxelles and braised short ribs is set down, it actually gets injected with a metal syringe filled with jus to make it more flavorful, and no doubt immune to any dryness.
After two years of untold pandemic upheaval, you deserve a meal full of verve and playfulness that takes you away from any troubles. Teleferic Barcelona is just the place to do that, as I found earlier this month when I dined outdoors as a guest of the restaurant.
The Los Gatos location is the third U.S. outpost for the Spanish restaurant group, joining ones in Walnut Creek and Palo Alto.
It was supposed to open in September 2021, but like everything else, was delayed by supply-chain issues. Much of its furnishings, which came from Barcelona, were stuck on container ships for six months.
Its patio umbrellas only showed up two and a half weeks ago, completing the roomy outdoor dining area at the front of the restaurant.
The convivial restaurant has been packed since it opened in early January. As at its other two restaurants, key staff positions are filled by well-trained Barcelona transplants, ensuring smooth service, not always an easy feat these days given the universal staffing shortage in the Bay Area.
Teleferic Barcelona’s Corporate Executive Chef Oscar Cabezas, who has been with the company for more than eight years and is now based in the Bay Area, worked previously at Michelin three-starred Arzak in Spain, in both its restaurant kitchen and its R&D lab. There’s a true confidence in his cooking that shows.
A visit to Teleferic Barcelona must begin with a cocktail, because these creative concoctions set the tone for all to come. The Gothic Mojito ($14) arrives at the table in a big glass canning jar mug spewing a cloud of dry ice and adorned with an orchid. Made with rum, lime juice, soda, and your choice of juice (I went with passion fruit), it’s fizzy, fruity and tastes like the vacation you wish you were on.
Teleferic Barcelona has its own supplier of the coveted 38-month-aged Jamon Iberico de Bellota, the black pig that gets its sweet, nutty, and outrageous lush marbling from a diet of acorns. A large plate ($29) comes shingled with paper-thin slices that melt on contact with the heat of your tongue.
Pan con tomate ($9), the classic garlic and tomato-rubbed grilled bread pays homage to Cabezas’ childhood, as its served with spicy, smoky chorizo-laced butter, just as his mother used to make for his lunch.
You’ve surely had countless orders of fried calamari, but not like this one. Calamares ($15) brings forth crispy Monterey calamari bodies threaded on a skewer that gets speared dramatically into a log. The tender squid is interspersed with fried thin slices of lemon that make for a fantastic combo, especially when dipped into the accompanying garlicky aioli the color of charcoal from squid ink that adds a touch of brininess.
Crab croquettes ($9) are crunchy fritters that give way to a creamy crab Mornay-like filling before getting gilded with slices of tuna sashimi on top. It’s two treats in one.
I’ve been to all three Teleferic Barcelona locations, and each time I always get the Pulpo Teleferic ($18). It’s always been a winner, tender as can be on a foundation of potato puree with a touch of truffle oil. This one was even more amazing, though, because it had been given a strong sear so that the tiny suckers on the leg were delightfully crunchy, each and every one.
The restaurant isn’t afraid to veer from the classic Spanish repertoire. New to the menu is the Bogavante Roll ($22). Think of it as a Spanish version of a lobster roll, with the lobster flesh handled expertly so it remains silky and tender instead of taking on tightness and toughness, which can happen in a matter of seconds. The lobster chunks get snuggled into a toasted brioche bun that’s crowned with crisp bits of Iberico ham.
The aforementioned Prime Wellington ($34) is indeed a winner. It’s also smart to use fall-apart-tender braised short rib inside rather than the typical tenderloin or filet mignon because it isn’t prone to overcooking and drying out as easily. This version comes with deep-fried gnocchi that at first look like little meatballs. But bite into one, and you immediately get the squishy-starchy deliciousness of potato, napped with a creamy sauce as rich as Carbonara.
There are half a dozen paellas to choose from, each serving two. We enjoyed the Maine lobster paella, ($58), which comes to the table sizzling and heaped with rice, Gulf shrimp, octopus, mushrooms, and Maine lobster with its deep-red shell spotlighted. The rice is nicely al dente with a layer of socarrat or crispy, caramelized bits on the bottom to scrape up and savor.
Can’t decide on just one dessert? Then, opt for the Trio Selection ($19), which includes mini churros with a chocolate-hazelnut filling, custardy French toast, and an incredible rendition of rice pudding.
Realizing that a bowl of rice pudding might be too heavy after a pan of rice-filled paella, Cabezas lightened it up by enfolding the rice pudding with a foamed crema Catalana that’s akin to sabayon. The result is somehow an almost cloud-like rice pudding. Completing the plate are a few finger-Jello-like cubes of mango and coconut milk scattered about.
Before you leave, be sure to take a look-see around the El Merkat or Spanish market right beside the bar. There, you’ll find wines, beer, chocolates, tinned seafood, olive oil, and other essentials from Spain sure to tempt. The market even offers paella kits and gift baskets.
It all makes for the next best thing to actually getting on a plane to Spain.