Share a piece of Spain with friends
BY KATIE DIXON | PHOTOS BY ALISHA CLEVELAND
At Las Ramblas, one in a trio of new restaurants opened by the prolific Giorgios Hospitality Group this year, a new way of thinking is on the menu. Located in Raleigh’s North Hills, this Spanish tapas joint takes its name from a famous street in Barcelona.
Las Ramblas emphasizes distinct aspects of Spanish culture, including social connection, taking the time to enjoy a meal at a slower pace and, most importantly, sharing dishes with friends.
AN INTENTIONALLY EVOLVING MENU
Sharing is the name of the game for Executive Chef Brian Jenzer and restaurant partner Laszlo Lukacsi, who are committed to offering guests all the things they discovered during a research trip to Barcelona last fall.
Upon returning to Raleigh and opening Las Ramblas in January of this year, Jenzer and Lukacsi took great care to create an authentic experience, from small details—like the water service with lemon and lively décor—to their favorite jamón and chorizo imported directly from Spain.
“We went [to Barcelona] with an open heart, an open mind, and brought back the best things to share with our guests,” Lukacsi says.
That’s not to say everything is transported directly from the streets of Spain. Jenzer, who is also executive chef at Rosewater Kitchen & Bar—another of Giorgios Hospitality Group’s Raleigh restaurants—also puts his personal flair into the menu, leading to specials that cross over between Spain and the American South.
Take, for example, a recent dish he featured that drew inspiration from both regions: fried grouper cheeks with crème fraiche buttermilk ranch, trout roe and caviar.
“With Spanish tapas, because plates are smaller, we can use cuts we don’t typically see—like cheeks, collar and tail portions,” Jenzer says. “In Spain, they utilize everything with their seafood.”
Taking that approach to preparation and combining it with Southern flavors results in “just small plates that we know our clientele will like,” Jenzer adds. Offerings at the restaurant change frequently and depend on the seasonality of produce he sources from local vendors, from heirloom tomatoes to Padrón peppers.
Lukacsi agrees on the importance of catering to diners’ tastes, while also helping them to experience and learn about something new. “The market probably won’t be familiar with everything on the menu, but we want people to know about this food,” he says. At the same time, “This is always an evolving project. We will listen to the market, listen to our guests, and continue to make changes over time.
SERVING A NEW GENERATION
Listening to the market was one of the reasons Las Ramblas came into existence. Headed by famed restaurateur Giorgios Bakatsias, Giorgios Hospitality Group is behind restaurants offering cuisine from all over the world, from Durham’s French restaurant Vin Rouge, to Kipos Greek Taverna in Chapel Hill.
Not only did the partners at Giorgios Hospitality Group see a gap in the Raleigh market when it came to Spanish tapas, but they also wanted to add yet another feather in the company’s cap—this time a casual atmosphere that enabled diners to try lots of new things, rather than having to choose one large entrée.
“We wanted to bring new energy and do something that was approachable to the younger generation,” Lukacsi says. “Las Ramblas is a fun, vibrant concept that gives diners the opportunity to try more dishes.”
Las Ramblas’ menu emphasizes inclusivity and conscious eating. There are many vegetarian-friendly options on offer, and the small-plates style allows diners to enjoy a variety of food without getting too full. The menu was also created with flexibility in mind, as seen in menu items like the tuna tartare or the beef carpaccio that come by the individual unit, or the drink menu offering wines and sangrias in “single or social” options (a glass or carafe).
This structure is for everyone, from the solo business traveler to the large group that wants to try many different things. Open until 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, Las Ramblas has also become a dining destination for those who might crave a light bite and drink later in the evening. The restaurant, which offers indoor and outdoor seating, can comfortably seat about 160.
In April, Las Ramblas also expanded to offer a Sunday brunch—still tapas-style, but combining components of the dinner menu with brunchy fare like tortilla Española—a Spanish-style omelet that is offered in various options like Manchego cheese or chorizo.
As Jenzer and Lukacsi continue to refine Las Ramblas, the research—and sharing of this research—will continue. They plan to take future trips to Spain, exploring regions like Madrid, Valencia and Seville.
“As we continue to learn about different styles of tapas and cuisines, we’ll continue to bring back the things we like most to share with our guests,” Jenzer says.
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Las Ramblas’ Tortilla Española
• 2 ounces of Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cooked
• 8 ounces of scrambled eggs (uncooked)
• 1 teaspoon of fresh thyme
• Spanish olive oil
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Peel the potatoes and put them in cold, salted water. Bring them to a slow simmer and cook them whole. Once they are cooked, remove the potatoes from the water and let them cool on a tray. Don’t rinse them under cold water. Dice the cooked potatoes.
Coat a 7-inch nonstick pan with Spanish olive oil and put it on low heat. Add most of the thyme to the oil and cook it until fragrant. Next, add the uncooked scrambled eggs and diced potatoes.
To create the egg tortilla, put the pan in the oven for 7–8 minutes and cook the eggs until they are set, but not overcooked or dry. The cooked egg mixture should be bouncy and resemble a tortilla.
Flip the egg tortilla onto a large round plate and garnish it with sea salt and more fresh thyme. Cut it into wedges or serve it whole.