Contemporary Spanish hot spot replaces longtime South Austin tapas treasure
One of the leading lights of Austin’s contemporary culinary scene has taken a siesta, but his restaurant will be in good hands. After a decade of running Barlata at 1500 S. Lamar Blvd, Daniel Olivella has retired, turning over the reigns of contemporary Spanish cuisine to former Eberly executive chef Laila Bazahm.
On May 12, Bazahm will debut El Raval, a tribute to the namesake Barcelona neighborhood. She became enchanted with the area while helming celebrated Southeast Asian-Latin American restaurant Hawker 45 with her wife, Laura Freedman. The culturally diverse district’s Carrer de Joaquín Costa was dotted with international groceries, providing crucial ingredients and a homesickness cure for the Philippines-born chef.
“El Raval is a neighborhood that celebrates diversity and cultural exchange. The different languages spoken on the streets, the various festivals celebrated throughout the year, and the wide range of cuisines available all speak to its richness and complexity,” said Bazahm via release.
Though Spanish cuisine will be at the forefront of El Raval, the restaurant will reflect Bazahm’s globetrotting palate. The menu is organized into blocks devoted to the sea, barnyard, and garden. Offerings range from traditional tapas like gambas al ajillo (red shrimp, garlic oil, chile de árbol, and sherry to original creations like braised local lamb breast in the style of kongsha mangsho (a Bengali mutton curry).
The Para Compartir (“to share”) section showcases bountifully portioned dishes, including Bazahm’s riffs on paella. Highlights include squid ink rice topped with a cuttlefish ‘nduja relish and sea urchin, slow-cooked short rib served with a Catalan beef stew reduction, and grilled chicken accompanied with carrots, vadouvan (a French colonial derivative of Indian masala), cardamom-sofrito emulsion, and green chile raita.
El Raval will also feature a dynamic bar menu developed by Bazahm’s pals, Moe Aljaff and Juliette Laroui, founders of Two Schmucks. The elegant Joaquín Costa dive bar, named in 2022 to the World’s 50 Best Bars list, helped transform the once gritty area into one of Barcelona’s most exhilarating nightlife scenes.
Starting May 12, El Raval will welcome guests Sunday - Thursday, 4-10 pm, and Friday and Saturday, 4-10 pm. At press time, a handful of reservations were still available for opening weekend.