Trading Thai for tapas

When the Spanish-inspired Costera Restaurant & Bar opened in the Prytania Street building that formerly housed La Thai, I was easily one of the first to try it. My zealousness was not due to the type of restaurant nor was I overly anxious to see what Brian Burns, formerly chef de cuisine at Peche, had in store (well, in all honesty, I was actually a little excited about that). But what really pulled me in there, no joke, was the fact that Costera was an Uptown spot that was open all day long.

While that may be a strange thing to look for, if you think about it, there are very few eateries Uptown that are open all day with no breaks between lunch and dinner. Though I understand why lots of places have set hours, I’m the first to admit that I’m an odd duck. I often get so wrapped up in work, errands and/or chores that I won’t have lunch till 2:30 or 3pm and finding a spot Uptown (where I don’t have to deal with tricky parking) that’s open all day is few and far between.

Anyhow, because of their convenient hours and generally fabulous food, I’ve been to Costera a few times since they opened this February. I haven’t tried everything on the menu (almost!), but I can tell you that Chef Burns and his partner Reno De Ranieiri are knocking it out of the park.

Rather than rattling off the whole menu, I’d rather just highlight a few of my favorites, starting with the “Gambas Al Ajillo” or garlic shrimp with olive oil, lemon and sherry. These perfect Gulf beauties are served head-on in a little cast iron pan with several toasted  slices of Bellegarde‘s country loaf served on the side to soak up all of that garlicky sauce.

Though much simpler, I also enjoyed the blistered shishito peppers with Arbequina olive oil and big flakes of Maldon sea salt. They could easily be a daily distraction for me. Another great veggie dish is the marinated beets with fennel, orange and creamy ricotta. This was a dish I was reluctant to share.

On the meatier side, I adored my small taste of the beef shank and potato “bomba” with pickled peppers. I kept scooping up the sauce with my finger till John gave me a dirty look. We also enjoyed the “Jamon Iberico” or thinly-sliced cured ham served with peppery arugula and crunchy Marcona almonds.

I realize it’s easy to stuff yourself silly with all these small plates, don’t forget to save room for dessert!  Though I’ve tasted several different offerings so far, my favorites have been their caramel popcorn crème brûlée and a pistachio-crusted cheesecake that also had the distinct, buttery flavor of toffee.

I look forward to returning to taste the last third of the menu I’ve yet to enjoy.