The history of the now ubiquitous range of dishes known as “tapas” is quite interesting, and dates back to late 18th century Spain. Before cars and trains, people would travel on horseback or on foot to get to their destinations, and obviously would have the need to stop a few times to rehydrate, and to fill their stomach with warm food. The small inns and hostels on the road catered to these travelers, amongst whom the large population were unable to read written Spanish during the time period. Therefore, the owners would allow the guests to try a sampling of the dishes of the house from the lid of the pots that they used to cook the dishes in, known as the “tapa” in Spanish. Restaurants specializing in a large variety of small dishes have certainly come a long way from the 18th century, but one of the best places in Stamford to enjoy tapas (small dishes that focus on simple ingredients) is Barcelona Wine Bar, right in the heart of Downtown. The atmosphere is cozy and welcoming, with a large seated bar area directly in the middle of the restaurant. While the food is fantastically prepared and utterly delicious, the impressive wine list is no joke either. The Spanish wine options are seemingly endless, and the staff will be able to explain which pairings match with the options of tapas you select to eat, with our favorites of the night being the 2015 Bodegas Olarra Gran Reserva (a full bodied, deeply rich Tempranillo with hints of caramel and cherry), and the 2010 Viña Gravonia Viura (crisp and refreshing, perfect with the different seafood dishes we ordered). The wine list alongside the handcrafted cocktails made right in front of you at the bar would be nearly enough for a perfect meal, but the menu is, quite honestly, even better. The charcuterie and cheese options are perfect to start with, and we loved the Catalonian fuet (a type of cured sausage), the tetilla (a mild cows milk cheese), and the idiazabal (a raw sheep’s milk cheese with a mild smoky finish). The serrano ham can’t be missed either, but any cheese or charcuterie you choose will be phenomenal. There is a large list of tapas on the menu, and we have not been to Barcelona enough times to try everything, but definitely have our selection of favorites that we must enjoy every time. The patatas bravas, the gambas al ajillo (shrimp), the chorizo with sweet and sour figs, and the scallops with caper vinaigrette are staples, while the the pickled beets, duck raviolo with foie gras, butternut squash souffle are some of our recent top picks. If you are in the mood for something more substantial, the different paella options are always satisfying and pleasing to the eye, with our classic option being the paella mariscos, overflowing with crispy rice (the bottom of the paella with the crispiest rice is known as the socarrat, a delicacy in Spain), shrimp, mussels and calamari. Anything you decide to order at Barcelona Wine Bar will hit every note you need, but it can be dangerous. The more you try, the more you want to order, so be prepared to sit and enjoy a never-ending meal when you walk in through the door. And don’t forget to end with the olive oil cake, if you have any room left. When you finish your meal, you'll be more than prepared to finish your journey, nonetheless thrilled that you get to get into a car instead of jumping on a horse.
Barcelona Wine Bar
222 Summer Street, Stamford, CT 06901