Barcelona Brookline: Pass the Paella

Barcelona, Brookline, Tapas

Steven Brand is Head Chef at Barcelona, a new tapas restaurant and wine bar in Brookline, Massachusetts. He sat down with us recently to talk house-cured meats and brandy bone marrow shots. Brand talks quickly with one ear perked toward the kitchen in case he is needed.

“I think I give off this vibe that I don’t have time for people, but I have all of the time in the world. I feel like it’s a chef thing. ” He might have a point. When it comes to running one of the busiest new restaurants outside of Boston, a one-track mindset would be difficult to sustain. Before joining the team at Barcelona, Brand spent time eating his way around Europe and working at top-tier restaurants in New England and New York. “I feel like being in the world and eating a lot of different types of cuisine is as important to being a chef as the actual cooking part.”

If there is any evidence that Brand has been around the cuisine block, and that a mild case of A.D.D. is actually working for him, it’s in the food at Barcelona. You will see him in the restaurant from time to time, pushing a cart of Jamon Iberico to customers, asking if they would like a taste.

The ham, cured for at least two years, comes directly from suppliers in the Iberian Peninsula. There, the black-foot, pasture-roaming pigs are fed with grass, herbs, and acorns (not a bad life for livestock), eventually producing a fatty, rich strip of meat that melts as soon as it hits your tongue.

After a few bites of the hand-carved ham, we ordered the morcillo, a crispy-seared blood sausage with potatoes in garlic aioli. Two friendly women beside us couldn’t help but ask what we were eating. Sure the sausage is made with blood, but what can we say? Perfectly cooked and jam-packed with flavor, it was the best dish of the evening.

Just as we were about to leave, Brand returned from the kitchen with a steaming skillet of rabbit and sausage paella – a nice twist on the traditional seafood dish. We were beyond full, physically unable to eat anything else. So naturally, we took a few bites of spicy sausage and tender rabbit before asking the bartender what to do with this enormous platter of heaven. He suggested passing it to fellow patrons down the bar. Ah Barcelona, you had us from “jamon”.