Today is: Saturday, May 25, 2024

Bar Celona, Restaurant Review

Stepping into Bar Celona transports you far away from the Old Town Pasadena. Inside this modern Spanish tapas bar, restaurant and lounge, a Spanish-courtyard-like dining room and lively tapas bar offer an amazing experience to the Spain’s cuisine
and culture. A menu of authentic and inventive tapas, paella, and entrees showcases the flavors of the Iberian Peninsula, with a seemingly endless array of options.
Once you finish your meal, prolong your journey by venturing to the amazing
bar that can take you through to the wee hours of the morning, all these
were the creation of local entrepreneurs Jack and Karen Huang.


Chef Josef Centeno is a talented chef who is now consulting at Bar Celona in Pasadena. Enter it any evening, and it will transport you halfway across the world
to the heart of southern Spain. All you have to do is step inside. Customers do it for
all sorts of reasons. Some go for a romantic meal; others grab a drink and a
snack at a tapas bar. You don't need a plane ticket or a passport, just
a few hours, some spending money, and an appetite for adventure.


The entrance proper, where a hostess will eagerly greet you, takes you to the charming restaurant's setting; which is connected to the tapas bar. Behind us, an
open kitchen sits behind. Chef Centeno’s team is already in a whirlwind of action.

It's all we can to do sit back, relax, and sigh. We haven't even glanced at the menus when we are greeted by an amicable, quintessentially professional server who will be our guide on this trip. "Have you been to Bar Celona before?" she inquires, launching with a smile into an explanation of the menu when we reply we have not.


Tapas, the general term for small plates or appetizers, originated in Spanish taverns centuries ago. Small portions of breads, olives, and cheeses launched a tradition that today allows diners the luxury of sampling a broad array of dishes in a single meal.
At Bar Celona, the selection includes both traditional tapas plates as well as more modern, fusion creations. Larger, entrée-sized dishes, including enormous portions
of paella, are also offered. Bar Celona’s tapas are both hot and cold, portioned
in two sizes. About four small plates or two to three larger plates
are recommended per person. Sharing is encouraged.

          Caipirinha                                      Gold Doubloon Martini

The most difficult moment of the evening comes when we must narrow down
our tapas selection. Anticipating the process, our server brings drinks while we
begin the debate. I'm enamored with the selection of Spanish wines, and opt
for a glass of Torres Muscat from the Penedes region. My date scans
the list of specialty drinks and opts for a combination of the two,
the Caipirinha, and the Gold Doubloon Martini

We start with the simplest of dishes, I look to my right for a knife and fork and
smile when I realize even the table is set to encourage sharing. Small plates
are stacked in the center of the table. Reaching for plates and utensils
from a communal stash offers a symbolic beginning to the meal.

        Selection of Olives                        Spanish Meat & Cheese Platter

A trio of plates arrive at our table. I start with selection of Olives, a Spanish Meat & Cheese platter and an 18-month aged Serrano ham. The flavors are complex and elusive, each bite resonates with underlying spice, freshness, and the salty-sweet distinctness of the cheese, the salamis, and the ham. We are smitten.

18-Month Aged Serrano Ham

At our server’s recommendation, we simultaneously sample two tapas that are
meant to be eaten together, the Grilled Chicken and Beef Skewer with toasted
bread, pepper, mushroom. Bite-sized pieces of tender filet mignon mingle with
tiny button mushrooms. While the meat slowly dissolves on the tongue, the
mushrooms explode with moistness and flavor, adding a lingering depth to
each savory bite, and a bite that contains the two is absolutely sublime.
The same for the chicken skewer, simply divine!

Marinated Spanish Tuna Salad with Fennel-Apple Salad

Next we sampled the Fried Calamari, with garlic allioli was also one of a kind. Also
we were surprised by the Sous Chef who sent us a sample of their Marinated Spanish
tuna salad with fennel-apple salad, again, I loved the fact that the apples were cut so
thin and you could not stop eating, it was truly a very light and delicious salad.

Grilled Shrimp Skewer with Lemon, Garlic, Ancho Chile Marinade

The Grilled Shrimp Skewer with lemon, garlic, ancho chile marinade had an
addictive flavor to each succulent bite, thanks to a rich white wine garlic sauce.
For every shrimp there is a thick sliver of garlic, which surprisingly lends
flavor without being overbearing. The sauce is light but deliciously
complex. It pairs amazingly with our lingering Sherry.

Grilled Chicken and Slow Cooked Beef Empanadas

We could not miss the Empanadas & Croquetas. We sampled the
Grilled Chicken & herb empanadas and the slow cooked
beef shoulder empanadas, it was truly to die for.

Fried Calamari

As far as vegetables, we tried the amazing Sautéed Cremini & Oyster mushrooms with bay leaf and thyme cream. One of the most amazing ways to enjoy mushrooms,
and I had that with some of their fresh bread, it was simply divine.

Cremini & Oyster Mushrooms                            Paella Marinara           

And then: Paella. The Paella Marinara arrives in a steaming metal pan, a wonderland of tastes and textures. Firm saffron rice is peppered with land and sea, thick rings of stark white calamari, pale pink shrimp, vibrant slices of chorizo, jet black mussels,
pale clams, and roasted chicken. A plate of paella offers the same opportunity
as a table full of tapas, ripe with potential, it’s an endless array of flavor
combinations. Each bite affords a new experience, tender, sweet shrimp,
rice bursting with saffron and spice, sausage exploding with bold,
unrivaled flavor. Paella and tapas, those Spaniards do it right.

Ocean Trout with Green Chard, Sweet & Sour Orange Sauce

While tapas alone will comprise an amazing meal, Bar Celona’s entrees are
equally stunning. The Market fish of the day was the Ocean Trout one of
several fusion-inspired dishes on the menu, has many a devoted fan. A
generous portion of bright pink trout that resembles the salmon sits
atop a bed of green chard, sweet & sour orange sauce.

The fish, however, steals the show, the moist, flaky meat mingling; it is
so flavorful, so enjoyable, that I am tempted to eat the entire
dish, even after an entire tapas course.

Braised Short Rib with Olive Oil and Crushed Potato

Another winner was the Braised Short Rib with olive oil, crushed potato, red
wine reduction, an unforgettable dish, the meat was melting in your mouth,
and I was told that during lunch this meat in served in a sandwich,
that could also be one of the best way to enjoy short ribs!

The same holds true for dessert. The Bar Celona split, with chocolate, vanilla &
coffee ice cream with fried banana, whipped cream. Each bite is outstanding,
buttery, flaky mingling with the ice cream and banana, delicious.  And also
the Molten Chocolate cake an accompanying scoop of hazelnut brittle
and vanilla gelato pushes the dish over the top. It is comforting,
like French toast, and invigorating, rather than weighty.

    Bar Celona Split                                Molten Chocolate Cake

Perhaps the lightness of dessert is intentional, as a Bar Celona experience isn't over when the meal ends. Beneath the restaurant, in the spacious adjoining Lounge, an expansive cocktail and wine bar, specializing in the Spanish wines and sangrias, presents a sleek, clubby atmosphere with low-rise tables and stylish sofas. A
gigantic 40-foot video wall projects images of flamenco dancers and Spanish
guitarists overlooking the Pit, a large recessed seating area lined with
sleek banquettes and low tables. A private dining room is
available for groups of up to 50 people.

Diners can also enjoy the lush Spanish courtyard, the perfect place to retreat for
after dinner drinks. The gentle murmur of a burbling fountain adds to the ambiance, perfectly complementing a space that is wrapped in the warm glow of candlelight.
the night club offers live shows, dancing, and music seven days a week. Flamenco guitarists start strolling through the tapas bar around 8:30, and the nightclub has
a packed lineup: Sundays plus Tuesday through Thursdays offer free salsa
dancing lessons, Fridays and Saturdays offer Flamenco performance
dinner shows, and Mondays feature local Spanish rock bands. After
10:00, the nightclub turns dance club, with live salsa bands
during the week, and DJs on the weekends.             

Bar Celona is a tour through the best of Spanish culture. It is the only place in Pasadena that you’ll find Spain’s outstanding cuisine, alluring music, and
captivating beautiful crowd under one roof. So what are you
waiting for? A Spanish vacation is at your fingertips.

Bar Celona features entertainment options throughout the week, including
live music, Flamenco dancers, and late night DJs in the lounge, where
Bar Celona  offers weekend service until 1:30 am.

Hours are Sunday-Thursday 11:00 – 11:00; Friday-Saturday 11:00-1:30am.

For map and location click Here!

For more information please visit their website at

Article By: Mary Adams
Photos By: Chris Marx

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