“There was nothing but olives and potatoes!” screams every disappointed vegetarian who visits the Basque country.
It’s mostly true, and on Dec. 7, San Francisco will experience a renewed appreciation for the seafood- and sausage-heavy delights of northeastern Spain. Taking up residence in the former La Urbana space at 661 Divisadero in the Lower Haight is barvale, Back of the House’s first Spanish tapas bar. Executive Chef Patricio “Pato” Duffoo will focus less on enormous paellas that require long waits even after you order them and more on an accessible menu of shareable hot and cold bites in the vein of San Sebastian’s culinary heritage. Look for piquillos relleno (Basque peppers filled with blood sausage), patata bravas (fried taters with aioli and a smoky sauce), and gambas (garlicky poached shrimp with preserved lemon and a hunk of bread). Of course, you can’t not have paella, and this one comes with shrimp, clams, squid, mussels, chorizo rice, grilled lemon, and aioli.
To put it succinctly, barvale is a place where you can order food or not. Jessica Everett’s bar menu leans heavily on sherries and cava, along with cocktails prepared with Spanish wine and Spanish vermouth. As befits a hot-weather country, there will be four gin-and-tonics, each built around a distinct flavor profile. Fans of Humphry Slocombe’s Jesus Juice sorbet will appreciate Kalimotxo, the red-wine-and-cola drink. Like the Basque language itself, the origins of that name are shrouded in mystery, but it’s also known as the “poor man’s sangria.” If wealthy woman’s sangria is more to your liking, barvale makes its own.
The space that used to be La Urbana’s “El Garaje” is now the Pintxo room, named for the Basque hors d’oeuvres that come on picks. While the main space will be painted in a “Picasso-inspired” palette, the Pintxo Room will be red, with lots of communal tables. Get ready to have your palate skewered. PLK
Barvale, opens Dec. 7, 661 Divisadero St., barvalesf.com