Lunch review: Barcelona Restaurant and Bar

By Columbus Alive
From the January 19, 2012 edition

If you’re still hung over from some “seemed like a good idea at the time” holiday spending sprees, I know of an exceptional midday meal bargain that’ll help ease you cheaply — but stylishly! — into the new year. This deal is all the more surprising if, like me, you hadn’t previously associated the inarguably beautiful Barcelona Restaurant and Bar with the words “heaving portions” and “phenomenal values.” Well, after sampling that eatery’s recently instituted $10 lunch specials, I believe Barcelona’s reputation must be thusly amended.

So what does $10 buy you at Barcelona for lunch? Potentially, a whole lot. If you order from the newish prix fixe “Menu del Dia” box, you’ll get a whoppingly large, dinner-sized entree (or sandwich — there are seven “main” options) plus an appetizer (three choices) and one of three pre-selected side dishes.

Starter-wise, the Sopa de Tomate (tomato soup, and a generously sized bowl of it, too) was an excellent rendition of the old favorite. Pulpy and tangy, it showed off a restrained hand on the cream, a perfect hint of basil and a lily-gilding garnish of salty Parmesan. Your other appetizer options are: a very nice green salad with a creamy and assertive sherry vinaigrette or Croquettas de Queso — four thumb-sized blonde croquettes whose thin crusts encased delightfully rich and soft melted cheese.

My favorite main course special was the crabcakes (Pasteles de Cangrejo). A quartet of meaty, golf-ball-sized flattened orbs arrived with attractive and thin panko crusts. Apart from a lemony aioli, they got most of their flavor honestly from actual crabmeat. Served with a rich and lettuce-y slaw, the prix fixe side they went best with was the thin fried potato wedges. The other two sides available are also perfectly fine, if not exactly exciting: a straightforward little pasta salad or a fresh fruit salad (mine was primarily pineapple and strawberry).

Two other “Menu del Dia” entrees I gnawed on were likewise attention-grabbingly large and flavorful. I especially appreciated that Barcelona’s lunchtime Arroz con Pollo (rice with chicken) was paella-ish and made with healthy brown rice and lima beans plus spicy chorizo.

That same zesty sausage thoroughly lit up my bounteous bowl of Pasta con Chorizo. Built upon a garlic, olive oil, stewed tomato and penne base and threaded with spinach, this was a satisfying face-stuffer. Was it transcendent? No. Was it one of the best bang-for-your-buck offers in any upscale restaurant in town right now? Absolutely.

Photo by Jodi Miller