Watching the famous Portland swifts flutter madly around the Chapman Elementary chimney in their trademark black pepper-esque vortex, presumably playing truth or dare until someone finally takes their wingman’s dare to be the first one to dive into the sooty communal bedroom, all I could think about was…I wonder what swift canelones taste like?
You could hardly blame me for having canelones on my mind, after all, I was only a scant six blocks from Ataula (more like three as the swift flies), and once you’ve had Barcelona-born chef/owner Jose Chesa’s version—organic chicken braised with tomatoes, shallots and herbs, ground and rolled into homemade tortillas, then smothered in lush rostit sauce and Parmesan béchamel and baked to order in a small cast iron skillet—they’re imprinted on your bird brain.
Over in the bar, behind the gently winding white concrete bar dabbed with bits of sparkling sea glass like the Spanish beach you spend most of your workday wishing you were at, porrons and bottles of crisp Basque cider wave a muleta at your sobriety.
From the moment you touch down in this cheerful Northwest tapas bar and are served your first glass of sangria—lent considerable complexity thanks to a fruit and brandy sous vide—you realize something bueno is about to happen here, in this bright, breezy, wood beam crossed space, open and welcoming like a wide grin, dotted with vivid abstract art and fresh flowers and lorded over by skylights that make the room glow long into the evening in summer.
Over in the bar, behind the gently winding white concrete bar dabbed with bits of sparkling sea glass like the Spanish beach you spend most of your workday wishing you were at, porrons and bottles of crisp Basque cider wave a muleta at your sobriety, while the seasonal tapas menu provides heaps of hot, blistered pimientos de padron, smooth white globes of burrata dripping with Spanish tapenade and confit tomatoes, a rich, salty Dungeness crab and potato salad tucked into a repurposed anchovy tin, and a fist-sized hunk of fall-apart tender lamb shoulder surrounded by peach coulis and Catalan beans. Then there’s the paella—a pan for two filled with bomba rice, prawns, mussels, calamari, clams, saffron picada and rich, fragrant lobster fume, and bearing a respectable soccarat. Come to think of it, I wonder what swift paella tastes like…just kidding!
Executive Chef: Jose Chesa
Owner: Jose and Cristina Chesa
Pastry Chef: Adam Kennedy
Atmosphere: Big, bright, bubbly Barcelona-meets-PDX tapas bar tucked down a side street in one of NW Portland's most vibrant micro-neighborhoods
Outdoor seating: Sidewalk tables
Best Seat: Take over one of the big communal tables in the middle of the restaurant, or, in fair weather, one of the sidewalk tables
Noise Level: Boisterous when full
Dress Code: Casual
Bring the Kids: Yes
Bathrooms: Through the door on the right hand side of the back of the restaurant
Parking: Street parking is free and can be difficult to find
Cocktails: Full bar, fantastic house sangria
Wine: Yes, nice list of mostly Spanish wines by the glass ($8-$13) and bottle ($32-$84)
Corkage: $20, waived with bottle purchase from restaurant list
Coffee: Local Roasting Co.
Ideal Meal: Octopus carpaccio, Dungeness crab and potato salad, lamb shoulder with Catalan beans, calamares negros, crema catalana-filled fritters
Vegetarian Friendly: Yes, and there's even a vegetarian paella
Good for the following occasions: Date Night, Dinner With Friends, Brunch, Dining Alfresco
Group/Private Party Details: The entire restaurant is available for private parties Sunday evenings and all day Monday
Reservations: Accepted for parties of 6+