Ataula Is Chef Jose Chesa's Masterpiece

There are foams here, and lots of sous vide, and olive-oil ice cream, and it all feels terribly modern and exciting.

Chef José Chesa's breezy Catalonian tapas spot has won plenty of acclaim in its three years of existence, and one need only look as far as the Nuestras Bravas ($8) to see why.

Chesa's take on the traditional patatas bravas comprises nearly 30 razor-thin slices of sous vide-cooked potato compressed into cubes, fried until crispy, then topped with tangy brava sauce and a squiggle of cool milk aioli. It's at once crunchy and meltingly soft, spicy and cool—a refreshing update of the more rustic presentations of Ataula's closest analog, Toro Bravo.

Related: Toro Bravo is Playful Spanish Food Enriched by the Bounty of the Pacific Northwest

There are foams here, and lots of sous vide, and olive-oil ice cream, and it all feels terribly modern and exciting. Not all dishes hit the bull's-eye (the $6 coca bread with olive oil and shredded tomato is underwhelming, as is a $40 rabbit paella that tastes mostly of rosemary), but with Chesa himself often roaming the bright, muraled dining room, checking on patrons and enthusiastically explaining dishes as they emerge from the kitchen, you'll be more worried about the fact you've over-ordered to care.

Related: Ataula Is the Third Best Portland Restaurant in 2014

(Bethlayne-Hansen) (Bethlayne-Hansen)

Eat: As many tapas as will fit on your table, and don't even think of skipping the Nuestras Bravas.

Drink: The sangrias are decent, but Chesa's creations are definitively enhanced by Ataula's large imported wine list. Ask your server for pairing suggestions.

Most popular dish: Paella ($34–$40) and those excellent Nuestras Bravas.

Noise level: 70/100

Expected wait: The busiest times are between 7 and 8:30 pm; any time outside of that sees good odds.

Who you'll eat with: Middle-aged foodie tourists and residents of nearby condos.

Year opened: 2013

1818 NW 23rd Place, 503-894-8904, 4:30-10 pm Tuesday-Saturday. $$$.

(Joe Riedl) (Joe Riedl)

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