Telefèric: Hot New Spanish Restaurant in Walnut Creek
Walnut Creek’s latest restaurant is simply estupendo.
Svelte, with sparkling eyes and a ready grin, Xavi Padrosa cruises the dining room with a porrón—a Catalan party pitcher full of spiced Manzanilla sherry. His left forearm graced with a scarlet napkin, the owner strikes the pose of a matador.
Stopping by our table, Padrosa raises the pitcher well over his head and lets its golden contents flow into his wide-open mouth. From our vantage point, the 30-year-old owner (the son and brother in the Padrosa family’s Spain-based business) looks seven feet tall.
So of course, we switch our iPhones to video and ask him to do it again.
The showmanship was part of a splashy opening and a vivid demonstration of Europeans taking their fun seriously. But Telefèric Barcelona is an interactive enterprise. Every 20 minutes, whoops pierce the dining room as a party-sized paella pan emerges from the oven and is wheeled from table to table. Not far behind rolls a cart of pintxos—tapas thrust with toothpicks.
Telefèric is the first of three restaurants coming to Walnut Creek’s 1500 Mt. Diablo Boulevard, each claiming one level of a meticulously constructed building outfitted in reclaimed brick. Telefèric’s dining room, designed by Oakland’s Arcsine, has massive bifold windows that can be raised by powerful winches and transformed into awnings, while an adjoining open-air terrace—possibly the city’s most compelling dining space—boasts its own Spanish-themed bar.
With its seductive bar and electric decor (the contemporary art and sleek restrooms alone are worth a trip), Telefèric makes for a sweet night on the town. It was packed from the get-go, and 1500 Mt. Diablo will surely be the hottest address in town once Slice House, with its celebrity pizzaiolo, and Rooftop, with a one-of-a-kind open-air ambience, debut this spring.
So how is Telefèric’s food? We made several visits, all in the opening weeks, and each time we left more impressed. Chefs Oscar Cabezas and Rodrigo Vazquez are guided by Soledad Urabayen, Xavi’s mom, and the menu is drawn from the family’s Telefèric Restaurant in Barcelona.
As fun as the pintxos and paella are—and you should definitely check them out—the best dishes on our visits were the entrées, which change frequently. On our first visit, we had what was, in my view, the pinnacle of pork. Called “Keep the Secreto, Shhhhhhh!” it was a special cut from the black-footed pig. Sublime and succulent, the pork was cooked a la plancha, on a flattop grill, and paired with a bold chimichurri sauce. On subsequent visits, we were wowed by supple hanger steak (order it as rare as you dare), delicate meatballs in a chocolaty sauce, and buttery black cod scented with orange zest.
When ordering tapas, this is the place to test your comfort zone: Thick smoky coins of grilled octopus and head-on shrimp—plump and garlicky—were our favorites. Tapas are meant to be shared and enjoyed with a drink, so explore the Spanish-focused wine list, or go for the default: a shimmering goblet of ruby sangria made with Tempranillo and brandy, and infused for days with macerated fruit. Telefèric’s signature cocktails include a Spanish favorite: gin and tonic made with top-shelf ingredients.
The service during our visits in the opening weeks was, understandably, all over the place (although the greeting at the host’s stand was welcoming). The high-energy style of the restaurant requires servers with passion and panache. We had a particularly good time the night our slice of the staff was energized.
Throughout all of our visits, a model telefèric (gondola) traversed overhead. It’s a toy that started as a fixture at Rondes, the family’s first restaurant in Sant Cugat (a town not unlike Walnut Creek located just outside Barcelona). The regulars came to refer to Rondes as “that place with the telefèric.” When the Padrosas opened their second restaurant in Barcelona, they named it Telefèric.
The name is particularly apt here. The restaurant is fun, the views terrific, and it’s clear Telefèric is taking Walnut Creek’s dining scene to new heights.
Contact: 1500 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Walnut Creek, (925) 300-3826, telefericbarcelona.com. Lunch Mon.–Fri., dinner daily, brunch Sat.–Sun.
Ma Premiere Foie Gras
Every year, some 100 restaurants in Barcelona compete for the best tapa based on votes from diners. In 2014, Telefèric Restaurant’s Ma Premiere Foie Gras took first place. We found it so mind-blowing that we asked chef Oscar Cabezas to break it down for us.
The crunch of the bread, the meltingly tender foie gras, the creamy sweet onions, and the fruity tang in the jam produce a subtle yet complex flavor that cannot be beat.
Pressed coca (a simple focaccia-like bread), is brushed with olive oil and well toasted, and then topped with red onions that have been cooked for eight hours and finished with cherry jam. Seared foie gras serves as the crowning ingredient.