Written by Alix Wall
Talk about buzz. Xavi Padrosa was already feeling upbeat about the praise he’d been receiving for his new restaurant, Teleferic Barcelona - Walnut Creek, CA
, when one of the most respected chefs in the world came in to dine.
Jöel Robuchon, who runs a worldwide restaurant empire with more Michelin stars than any other living chef, slipped in under the radar for dinner. “We didn’t even notice,” admits Padrosa. “A friend of his came in a few days later and we started talking,” Padrosa says. “At first he didn’t want to say who had recommended us, but finally he said it was Robuchon, adding that it was one of the chef’s best experiences with Spanish food.”
Padrosa acknowledges that when dreaming of expanding his family’s restaurant concept to the United States, Walnut Creek was hardly among his top destinations. Yet chalk it up to the persuasive powers of developer Brian Hirahara, who fell in love with the Padrosa family’s Spanish food on his honeymoon in Barcelona, and worked ever since to bring it here.
Given Hirahara’s track record with Va de Vi and Sasa, and willingness to partner on the restaurant deal, when Padrosa saw the building with its open rooftop, outdoor dining areas and key location on Mt. Diablo Boulevard, he simply couldn’t refuse. “Walnut Creek is exploding right now,” he says. “There are a lot of things going on.”
Padrosa’s parents, Soledad and Ramon, opened their first restaurant 23 years ago in Sant Cugat de Vallè, a town northwest of Barcelona. Called Rondes, it quickly developed a stellar reputation despite limited seating for only 50 diners. “My mom is from Pamplona, the Basque country of northern Spain, and that’s where pintxos are very common. We were the first ones to bring them to Barcelona,” said Padrosa.
Pintxo which literally means spike, is a small snack typically eaten in Northern Spain on a skewer, similar to a toothpick. Pintxos are singular bites of all kinds but most commonly seafood. Imagine a big bite of the freshest ahi tuna, swabbed with a dab of wasabi cream that melts in your mouth. That’s a pintxo. Others include fois gras with grilled apple, caramelized onion and cherry jam on crostini; salmon on toast with capers and mascarpone; chorizo wrapped in a mini-croissant. (Be forewarned, these nibbles are priced per piece.)
The restaurant’s name comes from family summers spent in Switzerland where Xavi and his sister Maria were enthralled with gondola rides—called telefèric in Spanish. If you look up at the ceiling in their Walnut Creek restaurant, a toy telefèric runs back and forth along the ceiling. Adding to the vibrant atmosphere are paintings on the colorful walls by Spanish artists like Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali and Juan Miro. My mom is an art collector,” says Padrosa. “To her the relationship between art and food is important. Art suggests atmosphere and culture. The food we do is artistic. It all works together, everything has a relationship.”
Padrosa is especially proud of his El Chuletón Del Norte—a 40-ounce steak for four marinated with fresh herbs and Spanish olive oil. The wine list, not surprisingly, is mostly Spanish, and cocktails include the Spanish Merchant Gin & Tonic with juniper, orange, pimento, and nasturtium flower and Sangria Telefèric made with red wine, sherry, ginger, citrus, berries, apple, chamomile and cinnamon.
While most of the produce is sourced from local farms, much of the meats and cheeses are imported. The chefs are imported too, from the Padrosa family restaurants in Spain. “We’re feeding our guests great quality food with great presentation,” Padrosa says, “making them feel like they’re eating on the Plaça de Catalonia in downtown Barcelona.” Open daily for lunch, dinner and weekend brunch, 1500 Mt. Diablo Boulevard, Walnut Creek, 925.451.9576, telefericbarcelona.com