Costa Brava: the best kept secret in town … until nowEditorial Wednesday, February 29th, 2012
The definition of tapas according to Wikipedia is that they are a wide variety of appetizers or snacks in Spanish cuisine. They have become a popular style of dining and now you see tapas in so many restaurants, not just in Spanish ones.
I love the idea of tapas dining. It is great with groups of people and foodies alike. You get the opportunity to taste many different flavors and fill up on small plates of all kinds. It’s a way of dining that I wish more people would embrace. It’s healthier, more fun and certainly more adventurous.
Recently I got my fix of Spanish culture and was delighted that I did. Barcelona is perhaps one of my favorite cities in the world and we have a little piece of it here in one of the most obscure and secretive locations. Hidden behind a row of tall green bushes, Costa Brava is quietly nestled on Garnet Avenue in Pacific Beach. It is very true that if you didn’t know this place was there, you’d drive right by it, and that is just a shame.
The decor is classic with deep rich wooden chairs, chunky tables and white adobe walls covered with paintings of Spain. Gorgeous skylights let the light in during the day and the moon shines through at night. There are two outdoor patios; one in the front that is scattered with a few tables and one in the back that is largely party-oriented with big tables all around.
Now, if you are not familiar with the tapas-style of dining, this is a great place to break you in. The staff is incredible with genuine and friendly attitudes to help any diner, pro or not, through the large menu. Don’t get overwhelmed by the wealth of dishes. They are small, and this is all about the marathon; take your time.
The menu here is traditional and divided into cold and hot. All the classics are there, as are all my favorites.
On the cold side, Salpicon de Mariscos ($8.95) is a marinated seafood salad. Calamari, scallops, mussels, clams are marinated with just the right amount of acid and herbs. Champiñones a la vinagreta ($3.95) is for any mushroom lover. I think I counted four different varieties of mushrooms in the tangy marinade.
Alcachofas con jamón ($5.95) are artichokes with ham. Chunks of Serrano are paired together with simple steamed artichoke hearts. This dish is about just letting the flavors speak for themselves.
Over on the hot side the choices are just as endless. Cocido de Alubias ($8.95) is a white bean stew with chorizo. This is something I could have eaten an entire pot of on a cold San Diego night. Gambas a la plancha ($8.95) are whole shrimp, salt crusted and then grilled. These are not for the faint of heart as they will come to the table with their heads and shells on. Once you dissect them, the moist meat just melts in your mouth.
The Choricito Frito ($6.95) is probably something you won’t see too often. Simple sautéed chorizo with garlic gives a spice that is great with a nice hunk of bread. Pimientos de Piquillo rellenos ($6.95) is also a great bread accompaniment. Tri- colored Spanish piquillo peppers are roasted and drenched with thick olive oil and garlic. Trust me, you will sop the oil up with your bread.
I literally could go on and on. That is one of the great things with tapas and this restaurant: You will never get bored. Even the wine list is amazing and, my readers know, I don’t say that often. Be prepared, you will not find any California chardonnay on this list; it is Spanish wines only, and good ones.
Make the journey to PB and find Costa Brava. You all should thank me as I really did hesitate to write about this restaurant, for one good reason: I didn’t want to let the secret out.
1653 Garnet Ave.
San Diego, 92109
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