A few years ago tapas — the small bites served at Spanish bars — were all the rage, spawning years of restaurants dishing out the trend of mini bites at high prices. Now it seems like tapas are making a comeback in the Bay Area, first with the opening of Aatxe in San Francisco and now La Marcha in Berkeley.
The restaurant, which opened in late October on San Pablo Avenue (near University Avenue), gets its name from the Spanish tradition of “the march” or late-night tapas crawl where Spaniards would go from one bar to another, drinking and munching on tapas, often just served on a toothpick.
I was invited recently by the restaurant for a media dinner, and our table tried to think of other tapas bar in the area (if for some reason we wanted to do our own impromptu “march”) and we couldn’t think of one. (Of course, the most notable tapas bar in Berkeley would be on Shattuck Avenue at the longtime Cesar.) But we really didn’t need to do a march because co-owner Emily Sarlatte kept the food coming from the kitchen, headed by Chef Sergio Monleon.
Before opening the restaurant, Monleon and Sarlatte gave the Bay Area a taste of their food through their catering company, Nora Cocina Espanola.
The new restaurant has a bright and lively feel with the colorful paintings on the brick walls, and the TVs above the bar always showing a soccer game. La Marcha currently serves only wine and beer, and a small selection of sherry. I started with a glass of Sangria ($12), which always says party with the festive fruit in wine.
The food all looked so amazing coming to the table, and really had an authentic feel, showing that Monleon has some mad skills in the kitchen. Some dishes tasted great while others seemed to lack some oomph. The tapas menu seem to be one of the most extensive I’ve seen in town, with nearly 20 items just under the tapas section. (Other sections include salads, charcuterie, and paella.)
Here’s a look at some of the dishes and my initial thoughts from our dinner:
Then we moved on to some of the paellas. We were served three types, a traditional mixta with prawns, chicken and chorizo, a pork-focused dish, and a vegan paella. My favorite was the mixta because of the combination of flavors. I liked the presentation of the pork chop in the paella tres cerditos, but unfortunately the pork chop was dry.
Of course, by the end of the meal we were all exhausted and barely looked at the dessert menu, which offered such traditional dishes as flan. We ended up, though, with the olive oil cake served with ice cream. The cake tasted fine, but I was more enamored by the ice cream.
The last bite
La Marcha’s parade of tapas showcases the skills of Chef Monleon. And while some might need a bit more flavor, they all accomplish the goal of quenching your hunger while having a nice glass of wine or beer. La Marcha adds a nice dining night life to this part of San Pablo Avenue, and is a nice place to drop by for a bite and drinks before dinner.
Because this is a media dinner, I’m not giving it my typical rating but it’s a spot I would check out again. Thanks to La Marcha for the invite!
The deets: La Marcha Tapas Bar, 2026 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley. PH: 510.269.7374. Open Tuesday through Sunday, 5 to 10 p.m. (happy hour from 4 to 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. to midnight). Reservations, major credit cards accepted. lamarchaberkeley.com
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