Each month, in our “Restaurant Rumble” conversation, MnMo food critics Jason DeRusha and Joy Summers review two restaurants and pick a winner.
Joy: Hector Ruiz is the prolific chef and restaurateur behind Cafe Ena, Rincon 38, La Fresca, and La Ceiba in south Minneapolis. And his latest, a petite Northeast tapas joint, is equally pretty.
Jason: It fits perfectly in the international melting pot of Central Avenue, near the excellent Sen Yai Sen Lek and Maya Cuisine, while offering a more upscale menu and ambiance than is typical for the neighborhood.
Joy: The dishes are inspired by Spain’s Costa Blanca, or white coast, which is known for its paella and unbelievably fresh, gorgeous seafood.
PHOTO BY TJ TURNER
Jason: The menu is not organized in any meaningful manner. It’s a two-sided laundry list of roughly 30 items. Most dishes cost between $8–$10 and are sized such that each member of a group of four could have a couple tastes. That’s good because there is an element of sameness to the menu. So many dishes had what appeared to be the same three sauces, and sat on top of a pile of potatoes. That said, Costa Blanca’s rendition of patatas bravas is the best I’ve ever had: confit baby potatoes with crispy chorizo and roasted artichokes, served with pimento, saffron, and citrus aioli. Beautiful.
Joy: We marveled at the beauty of the lamb chops, which were just blushing pink in the center and put together like a still life with Brussels.
PHOTO BY TJ TURNER
Jason: The piquillos were also perfect, stuffed with a honey white truffle goat cheese and topped with sherry glaze. I also loved the salchicha, a lovely homemade sausage with a bright chimichurri sauce on toasted garlic bread, and the colitas, a peppy beef-tip dish. I just wish the wine list had more Spanish offerings. Why the California cab, the Oregon pinot? A Spanish “house” red and white would make a lot of sense.
Joy: Still, that $36 bottle of garnacha was an excellent foil for all those tapas flavors. This might just be Hector Ruiz’s best restaurant yet.
Photo by TJ Turner
Costa Blanca Bistro Quick Tips:
Acoustics: A little loud
Reservations: Recommended. It’s a small room and fills up after 6 p.m.
Parking: On street and tight. Brush up on your parallel parking skills.
November’s “Restaurant Rumble” pitted Costa Blanca Bistro’s inventive tapas against The Howe Daily Kitchen & Bar‘s elevated bar food. Find out which restaurant Jason and Joy chose as the winner in the November issue of MnMo.
2416 Central Ave. NE, Minneapolis, 612-789-9296, costablancabistro.com