The story: Teleferic Barcelona is the first U.S. location for the Spanish restaurant known for its tapas and pintxos (small plates and skewers), and the family behind the project chose downtown Walnut Creek, opening in January in a new three-story complex right on Mt. Diablo Boulevard.
Why I went: I wanted to check out Teleferic’s flashy new restaurant, and its concept of serving its pintxos (usually just served at the bar) dim-sum style on rolling carts. Because this was still winter when I visited, I suggested to my friend Sandy of Foodhoe’s Foraging that we go for weekend brunch so we could take advantage of eating in daylight. So we went soon after Teleferic started offering its weekend brunch, whimsically referred to on the menu as “Brunchelona.”
The vibe: The restaurant is a large space on the second floor of the complex, festively decorated with casually dressed servers who were super friendly and welcoming. The festive atmosphere was set off by the playful miniature teleferic (toy gondolas, or what reminded me of the fumicular going up the Spanish hills) running on cables on the ceiling. The crowd was a mix of couples and groups of friends enjoying weekend brunch.
The menu: The brunch menu starts with traditional items also found at lunch and dinner, such as the pinxtos and cured meat, the popular jamon. But there’s a special column for brunch items, which include lots of egg dishes and the traditional Spanish omelette called tortilla. There’s also only one paella offered, the Mediterranea ($14), featuring seafood like prawns, clams and mussels. While the tortilla is nicely cooked, I was disappointed that the chorizo version we ordered didn’t seem very traditional or authentic like how I had them in Spain. I remember them layered with thin potatoes and often served room temperature as a wedge, but Teleferic’s version looked very much like every other American omelet. Also, the paella lacked any of the crispy rice (known as the socarrat).
The pinxtos coming on the carts are really the star, though I only tried one, a tuna ceviche. Sandy and her husband, “Mr. K.,” tried a few more, mostly ham and cheese on toast or salmon. Sandy said they were fine, although the bread seemed stale. I thought the cart of pintxos looked impressive in its presentation with the variety of colors and ingredients.
The booze: There’s a nice list of Spanish wine and beer as well as domestic. There are also Spanish twists to brunch cocktails such as a Spanish Mary and a Barcellini (play on a bellini). I love cava, the Spanish sparkling wine, and was happy to see several offerings. The Cava Stars (Swarovski limited edition label) was especially nice.
My favorite dish: While the tortilla we tried wasn’t very authentic, another egg dish we ordered was popular at our table. It was the heuvos estrellados, or fried eggs served over diced crispy truffle potatoes. with ibericos (serrano ham). The runny egg mixing with the truffle potatoes just seemed to blend really well, creating a lovely flavor.
The last bite: Teleferic Barcelona definitely brings a bit of Spanish flavor to Walnut Creek, with a beautiful space and friendly service. The food can fall flat at times (like the paella and almost burnt churros) but they use quality ingredients that helps, such as any dish with prawns because they seem to have a supplier with super big prawns. There are other more innovative Spanish tapas restaurant in San Francisco, so Teleferic is smart to try to stake their claim to authentic pintxos on this side of the Bay.
The rating: 2 out of 4 camera snaps
The deets: Teleferic Barcelona, 1500 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Walnut Creek, Calif. PH: 925.300.3826. Open weekday lunch, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; dinner daily, 5 to 11 p.m.; and weekend brunch, 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Reservations, major credit cards accepted. www.telefericbarcelona.com
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