New neighborhood hotspot Iberico Spanish Bistro and Gin Club brings Spanish flavor to La Jolla. The upscale family-style restaurant is backed by award-winning restaurateur Juan Carlos Gomez, who brought El Agave to Old Town. Iberico is as trendy as it is flavorful, boasting authentic ingredients, chic art and a spot-on gin menu.
• The Restaurant:
El Agave’s Gomez sought to pay homage to his parent’s homeland with a classic Spanish tapas restaurant featuring a contemporary twist. His 10-year-in-the-making culinary dream opened in early July. Cow-skin booths flank the corners of the 5,900-square-foot venue that features a private dining area and an outdoor patio. Between brick walls carved with scenes from Madrid and the central bar ideal for cocktails and tapas there’s no shortage of real Spanish flavor.
• The Menu:
Tapas are definitely a menu focus with a variety that includes steamed clams, red wine braised oxtail, and three types of calamari. Despite the thrill of this Spanish tradition, you’d be wrong to discount dinner. From baked pork loin with Cabrales cheese sauce to Spanish rice for two, variety permeates Iberico’s entire menu. Name a meat, they probably have it; lamb, beef, oxtail, prime T-bone steak, chicken and game hen. Fresh fish range from sea bass and hake to tiger shrimp and prawns.
• The Gin:
It wouldn’t be a Spanish eatery without sangria and Iberico’s extensive wine list is tucked between a selection of Champagnes and sherrys, but the real cocktail focus is gin. Spain gets some of the credit for the recent gin revival, so pairing the two only makes sense. Although it’s a Spanish mainstay, Iberico’s selection goes well beyond a G&T. The menu boasts 14 types of gin, each prepared as a signature cocktail with ingredients that range from elder flower to licorice. Popular favorite Beefeater gets a new twist with rosemary, cumin, cardamom and cinnamon. Meanwhile, former monastery The Black Friars Distillery puts Plymouth gin on the list, served with lavender, coriander and citrus finishes.
• The Space:
Iberico’s Spanish flavor isn’t only to be found in the food. The low-lit retro green chandeliers illuminate grand painted murals of a Spanish dancer and a bull. The depiction of a lion etched into the brick wall is impressive, and a display of Matador hats and blue glass lends some whimsical charm. The highlight of the space, however, is the unique wall dividers featuring several hundred illuminated wine glasses.
• Iberico Spanish Bistro and Gin Club
909 Prospect St., La Jolla
Open daily for lunch and dinner 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.