If I was a business school professor, Legacy West would be the first to be included in my case studies. And I would say to my students: look, here’s how you capture the millennials. Young, educated, adventurous, and financially unburdened, we millennials are always attracted to new experience and ideas to spice up our life. A big part of which, of course, is food.
Legacy West is like a playground for millennial foodies looking to taste around the world, child-proofed with rubber mulch and safety nets to make sure nobody’s hurt. The restaurants design their menus to fulfill curiosity with a dash of culture shock, but not too much to become off-putting. Authenticity is never the goal here; it’s all about feeling safe to try anything on the menu without fear for disappointment. Bulla Gastrobar, sitting at the south end of the Windrose strip, is a perfect example of “tamed ethnic food”.
Out of the three Spanish Tapas restaurants in Dallas, Bulla is probably the most loud and lively, which truly lives up to its name – Bulla means “noise”. At the busiest times in the weekends, you’ll definitely need a reservation. Amazingly, it managed to bring food to the table very quickly even on a Saturday night.
Cured Meat And Tapas
I was very excited to see an extensive cured meats menu. Just like Italy, Spain is known for curing ham, sausages, salami, and even lean cuts like the Lomo (tenderloin). However, Spain gets an upper hand with their Iberian pigs, free-roaming and acorn-fed, which makes the leg meat more flavorful. That’s why I immediately went for the Paleta Iberica de Bellota, which is cured ham from Fermin, sort of a “brand name” distributor from NYC.
There is definitely a noticeable difference between Spanish Jamon and Prociutto, its Italian counterpart. The Jamon has a deeper purplish hue, it’s more oily, and a bit sweeter. With the slices twice as thin as Prociutto, it was a more delicate experience. We paired the Jamon with the soft, mild-tasting Tetilla cheese, which came with crunchy candied walnuts and a thick, sweet pear puree. The plate doesn’t seem to be much, but the strong, condensed flavor of the meat made it satisfying.
Since the Paella takes thirty minutes in advance to prepare, we went ahead and ordered the mixed chicken and seafood Paella before diving into the Tapas. The bacon-wrapped, Chorizo-stuff dates were one of a kind. Once you bite through the crispy bacon shell, you can immediately feel the texture switching to the pulpous flesh of the date, and then the tender, slightly spongy Chorizo comes at you with a final surprise. The flavor was a mix of sweet, salty and savory with a Mediterranean twist from the date. It was a fun dish to eat.
We ordered two other popular items of Bulla – Ham Croquettes and Patatas Bravas (spicy fried potatoes). The Ham Croquettes reminded me of those clever, inventive fritters from State Fair. Inside the crispy breading is a creamy pudding with cubes of ham, and you are supposed to dip the croquette in a sweet sauce made with honey and dates.
To balance out the heavy croquettes and potatoes, we ordered the Andalusian Gazpacho. Gazpacho is a chilled soup made with tomatoes, onion, citrus, and other vegetables, whose tangy and refreshing taste makes it a great way to escape the summer heat. I remember my first experience of Gazpacho from a different restaurant, where I was taken by surprise how sour it was, but somehow I was addicted to it and couldn’t stop eating. The Andalusian version of it calls for the participation of a blender – yes, it’s a cold pureed soup. Personally, I felt the onion should have been left out of the blender, or at least not beaten to death. The excessive mechanical agitation made the onion taste bitter and “sulfur-y”.
At last! Time for the real test of authenticity: the Paella. I have been cooking Paella over charcoal at home for quite a few years, and I’m pretty picky with it. A proper Paella doesn’t need to be loaded with toppings, but the texture and flavor of the rice must be just right. Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts. You must use real Bomba rice from Spain – no substitution. Sure, Arborio or even Japanese rice are similar, but they don’t soak up as much broth as Bomba while still staying firm.
Bulla’s Paella didn’t taste like Bomba rice. The texture was too soft, and the grains were too small. Also, due to the limited cooking time, the Paella didn’t develop a crust at the bottom – the famous “Socarrat”. Luckily, the flavor was spot-on, and as soon as the Paella arrived at the table, I could smell the fragrance of seafood and saffron. The clams were juicy, tender, and fresh, easily one of the best clams I’ve had in Dallas. The portion size was great too, with one order enough for three to four people.
Overall, I think Bulla Gastrobar is a great place for a Spanish-themed night out, especially if you are new to Spanish cuisine and want to see how it is. I wouldn’t expect too much from the Paella since the best Paella can only be achieved at home, with lots of time, effort, and love. Lastly, please allow me to show case my own home-made Paella that gets me mouth-watering every time I see it.