Costa Blanca Bistro has quietly entered the colorful parade of Latin restaurants lining Central Avenue, adding tapas to the ranks. Tucked between the Durango Bakery and El Taco Riendo, Costa Blanca is the newest venture of Hector Ruiz, veteran restaurateur and owner of Cafe Ena. And while the restaurant’s interior is bright and shiny and the staff is attentive, Ruiz’s concept for Costa Blanca feels like a mixtape of his other tapas joint in South Minneapolis, Rincón 38.
As at any Ruiz establishment, it’s difficult to find a dish that’s underseasoned or lacking in savory personality. Blandness has no place at the Ruiz table. If you’re familiar with the long list of tapas at Rincón 38, you’ll notice similar themes on the menu at Costa Blanca. Potatoes, chorizo, artichokes, pimenton, and all sorts of seafood appear in different combinations. And there is no shortage of aioli. In fact, everything we tasted at Costa Blanca pulsed with a smooth decadence that can be both satisfying and exhausting if taken too far.
A plate of piquillo peppers ($8) stuffed with honeyed white-truffle goat cheese was the epitome of this decadence. The roasted peppers were so creamy and sweet that we would’ve liked a thicker, crustier slice of bread beneath each one to offset the sugar.
We dug the meaty Pulpo (octopus, $10) and the Patatas Bravas (confit potatoes, $8), both of which had a spicy, earthy bent. Each plate was smeared with plenty of saffron aioli (the potatoes) or pimenton aioli (the octopus), which added to Ruiz’s signature flavor bomb style but also felt like a bit of a crutch. I mean, what isn’t addictive when slathered in mayo?
The Colitas (beef tips, $9) were delicious and numerous, with a sweet peppery glaze, and the Tinta Negra (black squid-ink pasta, $14) with shrimp and scallops was delightfully creamy and garlic scented, and strangely punctuated by whole Brussels sprouts that added texture to the soft nest of pasta.
The only real disappointment was the Mero ($12), or roasted sea bass. The delicate white fish disappeared completely when faced with an ultra rich and cheesy square of polenta and a slippery butter sauce. Just a bit of acid and crunch might have saved the day.
Costa Blanca’s Caramel Spanish Flan ($6) is a refreshing end to a meal rich in spicy, complex flavors. The custard is cool and thick with an eggy flavor that’s countered by a garnish of fluffy cream, fresh raspberries, and a tangy sherry sauce that made our mouths pucker. We’d gladly stop back for this little treat on a sticky summer night after a stroll down Central.
Costa Blanca Bistro
Tapas in NE Minneapolis
2416 Central Ave NE, Minneapolis
BAR: Wine and Beer
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / Yes
ENTREE RANGE: $7-$14
NOISE LEVEL: Moderate
Mon-Fri 4 p.m-10 p.m.
Sat and Sun 10 a.m.-10 p.m.