Bravas Bar De Tapas: We’ve all gotten a bit to comfortable with the term tapas. Spanish for “cover”, it originally referred to slices of bread, meat and cheese served atop a glass of wine or sherry to keep the flies out of your cocktail (or so the legend goes).
What its turned into is anything served on a saucer-sized plate — from sushi to nachos. And folks, that ain’t tapas. After a recent trip to Spain, restaurateurs Mark and Terri Stark decided to bring the concept of true Spanish tapas to Sonoma County, opening Bravas bar de Tapas in late 2012.
What that looks like: Sangria, cider and wine with served with bites of paper-thin Iberico ham and Manchego cheese; “boqueronnes” or fresh anchovy filets with olive oil; roasted leeks with Romesco sauce; marinated mussels with chili relish; creamy chicken croquettes, cider braised chorizo or slices of tomato and garlic-rubbed toast. Along with the hot and cold tapas are heartier dishes cooked on a flat griddle called a plancha that include local sardines, Monterey calamari, skirt steak with red onion marmalade or quail with lavender. Dishes are between $8 and about $12 each (Iberico ham and steak are a bit higher but worth it).
It’s a menu filled with brassy, bold flavors that do the cha-cha through your mouth and leave no question that you’ll need a breath mint or two before getting familiar with friends or co-workers. It’s a departure from the usual Wine Country lineup, but the basic building blocks of the menu (shrimp, pig ears, fried duck eggs, Dungeness crab, sardines, skirt steak, seafood ceviche) are ingredients the Starks have a proven track record of cooking to perfection at their other restaurants (Willi’s Wine Bar, Willi’s Seafood, Monti’s, Stark’s Steakhouse).
Inside, the former Ravenous space has been transformed but is also familiar. The signature orange walls remain, given a modern update with dark gray accents and swirling, psychedelic posters from the San Francisco’s Fillmore that nod to Spanish painters like Picasso or Miro — which are bound to be extra groovy after a few glasses of Cava.
Outdoors, a revamped patio and bar are ready for year-round use. Just look for the neon sign beckoning you with the glowing words, Jamon In.
Bravas Bar de Tapas, 420 Center St., Healdsburg, 707-433-7700.