OK, I confess. I’m not an adventurous eater.
When I saw grilled octopus salad on Bulla Gastrobar’s dinner menu, I admit I was intimidated. I wasn’t sure this tapas restaurant was my style of dining. But I went anyway, and I’m so glad I did.
Bulla (pronounced Boo-Ya) Gastrobar is a modern casual bar surrounded by a trendy restaurant with scattered lighting and upbeat music. Its newest location is in Plano, Texas. Inspired by the gastrobars in Spain, Bulla was founded by Carlos Centurion whose goal was “to create the kind of place that stirs the senses and stimulates the appetite.” As Manager Austin Clark explained, they are all about “quality ingredients and craft cocktails at approachable prices.”
Right out of the gate, I shared my fear of new unusual dishes with our server Tonya, but she assured me I would be pleasantly surprised. She made dish suggestions I might enjoy, given my cautious palate. The staff at Bulla spend an entire week sampling the menu during their training, so they’re experts about the dishes served. Tonya knew exactly what menu items would delight me.
I was first asked if I wanted house water. And what exactly is house water? I learned that Bulla built their own state-of-the-art water filtration system on-site. So it’s not just any water customers are served, but water expertly filtered.
We started dinner with cocktails, and I couldn’t wait to try the Bullfighter, Bulla’s signature drink created in-house by mixologist Joel Meza. It was a wonderful mix of Bulleit bourbon, Aperol, Dow’s port, and lemon and cranberry juices. Sweet but not too sweet. In addition, Tanya suggested the Madrilena – Bulleit bourbon, La Guita Manzanilla, apples, cinnamon, and lemon juice. The garnish was a delicious surprise of candied black cherries.
Tapas restaurants specialize in appetizer-portion plates which are meant to be shared, so guests order multiple items which are served in order of the course. We started our meal with a Huevos Bulla, one of Chef John Sumner’s signature dishes. A pile of homemade potato chips was covered with potato foam (a very light whipped potato sauce – like mashed potatoes turned into a smoothie), fried eggs, and Serrano ham. The dish was a delicious blend of flavors meant to be eaten while the chips are fresh and crispy.
Next up was a meat and cheese plate, our selections were Chorizo de Cantimpao sausage with Tetilla – semi-soft cow’s milk with a mild, buttery flavor. It was smooth and tasty. And another surprise to die for was the dabs of Membria—quince jelly—on the crackers, adding a rich but smooth spicy sweetness to the flavor profile.
Tanya next recommended the Montaditos – small discs of bread topped with shredded brisket, tomato marmalade, guindilla, and that wonderfully smooth tetilla cheese. These yummy open-faced sliders were complemented with an order of Patatas Bravas (crispy potato cubes, spicy sauce, and aioli). Our main course was then rounded out with Churrasco Moruno — a cumin-marinated skirt steak and sweet potato terrine accompanied with two sauces providing vastly different flavors — mojo verde and peppercorn.
Lastly, don’t forget to ask for the separate dessert menu. The Churros Con Chocolate included sugary cinnamon churros with both chocolate and dulce de leche sauces. But our palates were in heaven with the Copa Bulla, their signature dessert. Granny Smith apples and strawberries were finely chopped, swimming in a dulce de leche sauce with a whipped Greek yogurt cream piled high in the dessert goblet. Not only was the Copa Bulla intoxicatingly delicious, it was irresistibly decadent and beautiful (enough to have other tables asking their servers what we were eating). And don’t worry if you’re not a Greek yogurt fan — it tasted like smooth sweet whipped cream.
For those diners with more adventurous palates, Bulla offers dishes cooked with octopus, shrimp, ahi tuna, red snapper and the popular Paella — Valencia-style rice, calamari, prawns, clams, shrimp, red sofrito, and saffron.
We left Bulla Gastrobar with full stomachs that were dancing the fandango in celebration of the delicious Spanish-style meal. Even non-adventurous eaters like me will be pleasantly surprised by the almost sinful decadence on the menu.
K.L. Romo writes about life on the fringe: teetering dangerously on the edge is more interesting than standing safely in the middle. She is passionate about women’s issues, loves noisy clocks and fuzzy blankets, but HATES the word normal. Her historical novel, Life Before, is an edgy time-warping tale of reincarnation, social justice and forgiveness. KLRomo.com or @klromo.
Cover photo: Tosta de Setas. Courtesy Bulla Gastrobar