On Thursday we drove out to Pacific Beach for a Tapena’s meetup at Costa Brava, not knowing what to expect. What we found was a bustling restaurant, their outdoor patio filled with chattering patrons. The wonderful Ruben and Ghali, part of the restaurant waitstaff, were pouring samples of Tapena wines for tasting.
At Costa Brava, the seafood paella goes into the pan right after (not before) you order it, and it’s served to you straight out of the paellera, a wok-like implement dedicated to this single dish. The fresh, clean flavors come from house-made fish broth gently amended with saffron, garlic, and tomato. Atop moist rice (garnished with tender green pepper strips, green peas, and savory minced piquillo peppers) are clams and bay scallops, green-lip mussels, and whole, heads-on shrimp.
Costa Brava, along with Pata Negra, its adjacent Spanish deli, is San Diego’s center of authentic full-flavored Spanish cuisine and culture. Some nights, there are musicians; on other nights, loud soccer plays on the TVs in the bar. (The website shows the soccer schedule.) All nights, the kitchen is open in true Iberian style until midnight.
It’s been a while since I walked out of a restaurant feeling as though I wanted to plant a fervent kiss on the food and staff. Boldly flavored tapas served by painfully handsome waiters who all look like cousins of Antonio Banderas equated to nothing short of a Spanish love spell that few can escape when dining at Costa Brava.
"if you want to know about a culture, spend a night in its bars.” –Ernest Hemingway