Costa Brava

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Long time no see! Sorry for dropping off of the face of the earth, but it’s all right because it’s not like people have been missing me, right? ;) Senior year at UCSD has been a little more hectic than I had anticipated. But anyway, here’s a post about Costa Brava – an awesome restaurant that serves amazing tapas for even better prices if you go at happy hour. (seriously, each dish is $3-5 each)

Apologies for the really crap quality photos of the menu and food because we were hungry and I was impatient.

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Happy hour menu, part I.

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Happy hour menu, part II!

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Sangria! It was pretty good, but I haven’t really had enough experience in drinking to tell you if it really was as good as I thought it was. In any case, the sangria wasn’t overly sweet but it was sweet enough to be potent as you kept drinking.

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Especially since we ordered a pitcher of it and only two of us were drinking.

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Pulpo a la vinagretta (marinated octopus): Sadly, this wasn’t my favorite as the marinade tasted faintly of mustard/wasabi/horseradish. And I really don’t like any of those three in any combination. But the octopus pieces were generous in size and weren’t tough to chew. So if you do like the taste of mustard, then you’ll really love this dish.

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Champinones a la vinagretta (marinated mushrooms): This was SO GOOD. We ordered a second serving of this because we all really enjoyed it. The vinegar that composed the marinade was perfectly tart/sour without being so overwhelming that you’d start crying. Absolutely loved this dish and it was a great way to start off the meal and whet your appetite.

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Cesta de Pan con Ali-Oli (basket of house bread with aioli). The bread arrived warm and was pleasantly crunchy on the outside while still soft on the inside. If I hadn’t been so preoccupied with the other dishes, I would have been able to finish off an entire basket by myself because I love bread. The aioli was also a really nice pairing with the bread.

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Pollo al ajillo (Sauteed chicken in garlic and sherry wine): The chicken was very tender, but there wasn’t anything extraordinary about this dish. It was simply good – order if you like chicken and aren’t too adventurous. :p

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Pimientos a la riojana (Spanish peppers sauteed in olive oil and garlic): Again, nothing overly spectacular about this dish but it was still very good. Order if you like bell peppers and want to add some vegetables to your diet.

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Queso Cabrales (Spanish blue cheese from Asturias): SO GOOD. I absolutely love blue cheese (I always get blue cheese on my burgers) and so this was just divine. I did pick off the olives, so I can’t comment on those, but the blue cheese was amazing. It was fresh and creamy and while I do prefer a stronger tasting blue cheese, this one was subtler… but I didn’t care because it was honestly just so delicious. How much did we enjoy this? We ordered this dish three times because we loved it so much. If you love blue cheese, this is a must-have. (also the bread was toasted/brushed with garlic and olive oil, like a crostini)

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Patatas a la brava (spicy potatoes): Not very descriptive, but if you know Spanish food, you know what this is! Their version was perfect for me. They weren’t spicy and the potatoes were fried perfectly. Despite being smothered in the sauce, they were still crunchy when you bit into them. I loved this dish too and so did our entire table because we ordered it twice.

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Pinchitos morunos (grilled lamb on skewers): I don’t know how they did it, but these pieces of lamb were juicy, tender, and absolutely had no trace of the usual “scent” of lamb. It came in a stew of vegetables (mostly bell peppers and tomatoes) and it was just fantastic. We had three orders of this dish because it was just so good for its price and quality. I would highly recommend ordering this if you were going… and of course, if you like lamb.

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Montadito de morcilla (Spanish pork sausage sandwich): I wasn’t too impressed with this as I didn’t really enjoy the sausage, but the bread is the same as the ones that come in the bread basket and it did come with sauteed onions. I probably wouldn’t recommend ordering this because there are so many other amazing items on the menu that are worth your money/appetite.

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Pescaito frito (fried whole baby anchovies): The anchovies were fried to perfection. They weren’t oily and came with an aioli for dipping. If you have a craving for french fries, these are a much healthier alternative since you’re eating the entire fish – bones and all! I liked this dish and they were fun to eat but it isn’t something you can’t find at another restaurant.

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Something I really, really loved about this restaurant was the fact that they were showing beinsport… and thus, Real Madrid and La Liga. >:D (and yeah, this wasn’t the best photo, but they were showing highlights from the two past clasicos – both in the Copa del Rey and in La Liga)

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Of course, Spanish pride for their national team winning the 2010 world cup!

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Jamon Serrano: We ordered this off of the regular menu for $12.50 and I think it’s definitely worth it. The dry-cured Spanish ham was drizzled with olive oil and thinly sliced. We actually took some pieces of the jamon and put it on top of the blue cheese crostini. But it was also really good by itself as it wasn’t overly salty.

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Montadito de choricito frito (Spanish chorizo sandwich): Again, not entirely impressed by the sandwich as I didn’t like the chorizo (though I usually do, when it’s served with paella). I think that I was just much more attracted to the other tapas than I was to the sandwiches they had to offer.

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Croquetas de queso (blue cheese croquettes): These were really good, but we ordered these near the end and were getting full so I didn’t think we enjoyed them as much as we could have if we had ordered them earlier on. The blue cheese was subtle and once again creamy. If you have had Japanese croquettes and liked them, you’ll like these too. If you have never had Japanese croquettes, then think fried mozzarella sticks but with a cream cheese consistency (I promise it tastes better than how I just described it!)

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Empanadillas de atun (tuna in pastry): Perfectly fried and the tuna inside was tasty. I really can’t say much more about this dish because I was really full at this point and only had 1/3 of one of them. But everyone else at our table really liked it and finished it off.

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Can you spot the Real Madrid crest?

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As full as we were, one can never pass up dessert! But we did decide to share because we couldn’t really stomach two. So here’s the dessert menu…

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Crema catalana (Spanish style creme brulee): You could taste a bit of condensed milk in this, I believe. And it didn’t have the usual black specks of vanilla that you could see in the traditional French creme brulee. But it was fantastically creamy, smooth, and it was a great way to end a perfect meal.

I had never been to Costa Brava before this visit and now it’s one of my favorite restaurants in San Diego. The prices of happy hour are amazingly fair and their food is even better. I don’t have anything truly negative to say about any of the dishes. Everything was delicious and if my family lived in Southern California, I would definitely take them here. Everyone at our table (K, J, and T) all agreed that it was a terrific meal and the service was always prompt. Our waiter was kind and patient enough to explain certain dishes as well as their wine selection (T ordered a bottle of red because he didn’t want to drink the sangria as it was too sweet for him). I could not have asked for a better first experience and can’t wait to go back!

The next time I come back, I’d probably want to try their paella because if I loved their tapas this much, I’ll probably really love their paella. In the case of tapas… I would order the marinated mushrooms, the lamb skewers, the spicy potatoes, the bread basket, and the blue cheese crostinis.

(Also one thing really awesome about them is that they actually have a football schedule on their website, where you can check to see when they are showing which La Liga matches!)

Costa Brava
1653 Garnet Ave, San Diego, CA 92109
http://www.costabravasd.com/

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