The restaurant group behind Hayes Valley’s Absinthe has replaced their nearby restaurant Boxing Room with Barcino, substituting a menu inspired by New Orleans for one in the style of Barcelona. Although the Absinthe group’s obvious influence for Barcino is Bellota, the Spanish restaurant they opened in SoMa last year, Barcino isn’t exactly Spanish: It’s an homage to Catalonia, the autonomous region of Northeast Spain. The lightly remodeled space at 399 Grove Street opened to the public yesterday, and here’s what’s inside.
In terms of decor, Barcino isn’t a major departure from the Boxing Room. The space remains open and wood-paneled with a long, curving bar, and the advent of more plant life. There’s also a new, neon sign to announce the restaurant.
The Absinthe group decided on their switch after Boxing Room chef Justin Simoneaux left the restaurant last year and as Bellota’s executive chef Ryan McIlwraith rose to his current role as executive chef of the entire Absinthe Group (which includes Bellota, Comstock Saloon, and Absinthe Brasserie and Bar).
Barcino clearly seeks to capitalize on Bellota’s success — among other accolades, that restaurant was named Eater SF’s best of 2016 — but it also endeavors to create a separate identity for itself. It does so largely around a menu of small plates devised by McIlwraith and Barcino chef de cuisine Athman El-Kindiy, many highlighting Barcelona’s seafood-rich cuisine. There’s also dessert from the group’s new executive pastry chef Michael Aguilar. But fans of McIlwraith’s larger format meals at Bellota like his paellas can take comfort in a rotating rice dish option.
Do expect all the requisite patatas bravas, cava, and gin tonics. That last drink, for example, is available in a wide variety of permutations, with five tonics and dozens of gins to choose from. The cocktail menu comes from Collin Nicholas, who yes, did the drinks at Bellota, too.
Barcino is open for dinner on Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Thursday through Saturday from 5 p.m.to 11 p.m.