While tapas places have come and gone in Charleston, one place that has lasted is Barsa. Much more than just tapas, Barsa is Charleston’s answer to Spanish cuisine, for now. We absolutely love the place.
You can get a glass of Spanish cava or a crisp Spanish beer while sharing traditionally inspired tapas and crispy-bottomed paellas.
The last time we were at Barsa we went on Food and Bev night- discounts for Chef Fonzi! Normally, we order a paella and then a couple of tapas while we wait on it. Because the paellas are made to order and you need a little extra tlc to get that crispy rice, you should give it 30-45 minutes before they are ready. And believe me, the crispy rice is worth it and time will fly when you’re sipping on vino tinto and munching patatas bravas anyway.
After ordering the seafood paella with a little chorizo thrown in, we were presented with delicious, olive oil drizzled bread while we decided on some tapas.
Side-tracked by the bread, we decided on the patatas bravas and the grilled hanger steak with chimichurri.
Patatas bravas are traditionally cut into small triangle pieces and fried, then drizzled (drowned? depends on the corner bar.) with a sauce that is spicy mayonnaise/ketchup with garlic and onion and a touch of mustard or mustard powder. These were slightly different, but equally delicious. I’m pretty sure I’ve never had bad patatas bravas and they go with all beers, wine, and cocktails. They’re like a superfood. That’s what superfood means, right? Açai berries. Quinoa. Patatas Bravas.
A little meat followed the carb-y potatoes.
This dish reminded me of something Alfonso and I used to get in the Plaza de Cuba at Restaurante José Luis. The dish from Sevilla was the juicy, crispy bits of sirloin steak with kind of an au jus sauce. Barsa recreated this with a gorgeous char on their hanger steak. Chimichurri is becoming more well known in Spain as international foods gain popularity, but more so than a Spanish sauce, it is known as a marinade for steak from Argentina. Authentic? Maybe. Perfect punch of flavor on a beautifully charred piece of meat? Most definitely.
Sometimes Alfonso and I like to “make the perfect bite” when we go to different restaurants around town. This week’s perfect bite brought to you by Barsa:
The steak was so juicy and delicious, the only thing we added to make the bite perfect was a little piece of olive oil drizzled bread. Dang! So good!
Finally, our paella was ready. Deliciousness aside, paellas are fun to serve at a party because they are so pretty. We ordered the small size, which is perfect for one person or two if you are sharing other things.
In Spain, a paella can be as fancy or un-fancy as you want. It is versatile and adaptable to most tastes. This paella was on the fancy looking side and most importantly, was a showcase of the chef’s mastery of socarrat, the crispy rice at the bottom of the paella. It is difficult to get it crispy enough without burning it. The rice should slightly caramelize and get crispy, without over cooking.
We were so full after paella, but as good Spaniards do, we saved room for a little dessert and sobremesa.
I love flan. So creamy, so smooth. And I don’t know what is up with the local strawberries this year, but they are killing it. Over the last month, all the strawberries I have bought for the house and the ones we have had in restaurants have been perfect- super juicy and ripe. Shout out to the Southeastern strawberry farmers!
We ended the meal with some soul-warming coffee and Tía María. Good coffee makes the world go ’round.
Somehow I ended the meal with four beverages, which may be an all time high for me.
Oh well, there are worse vices.
If you are ever in Charleston, make stop at Barsa on the corner of King St. and Line St. for a quick glass and tapa or for a lazy Sunday afternoon paella.
We’ll be back later this week with some more home cooking. Happy Tuesday!