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Thursday, November 5, 2015

La Marcha Offers Tapas, Paella in Berkeley

Posted By on Thu, Nov 5, 2015 at 2:00 PM

click to enlarge Arroz Negro, with squid ink, clams, fennel sausage, piquillo peppers, peas, anchovy breadcrumbs, uni aioli and saffron at Berkeley's La Marcha. - ALIX WALL
  • Alix Wall
  • Arroz Negro, with squid ink, clams, fennel sausage, piquillo peppers, peas, anchovy breadcrumbs, uni aioli and saffron at Berkeley's La Marcha.

La Marcha (The March) refers to the Spanish custom of hitting up numerous restaurants in an evening, having a few tapas and a glass of sherry, and then moving on to the next one.

At the new restaurant of that name in Berkeley, with its 21 tapas, five paellas, and the requisite Spanish cheeses and charcuterie, the chefowners hope you won’t need to move to the place next door.

In 2012, Chefs Sergio Monleón and Emily Sarlatte launched Ñora Cocina Española, a high-end Spanish catering company. Building on its success, they’ve just opened La Marcha on San Pablo Avenue near University in Berkeley.

Both chefs have spent significant time in Spanish kitchens, and say they are going for Spanish cuisine inspired by Bay Area seasonality.

Among our favorite tapas: perfectly spiced wild boar albóndingas in a sherry tomato cream sauce; costillas, or baby-back-ribs, marinated in Pedro Ximénez sherry with a smattering of pickled chiles; col rizada, the requisite kale dish, but here, sautéed and served with crispy jamón serrano, manchego, pistachios, dried cranberries and balsamic brown butter; and piquillos rellenos, roasted piquillo peppers stuffed with goat cheese and bread crumbs, served on a bed of radicchio, adding a lovely bitter note.

With so many tapas to choose from, we almost skipped the paella altogether, but we were warned not to by our server, and we were so glad we listened. While the Valenciana gets points for being the most unusual: with rabbit, snails, duck breast, green beans, rosemary and saffron, we skipped over the traditional Mixta, and went for the Arroz Negro, with squid ink, clams, fennel sausage, piquillo peppers, peas, anchovy breadcrumbs, uni aioli and saffron, though pork lovers may want to go for the Tres Cerditos with chorizo, smoked pork belly and shoulder chop, and vegetarians will surely choose the Huertana, with kabocha squash, red torpedo onion, chickpeas, purple cauliflower and saffron.

The dish was gorgeous, with the piquillos, peas and fennel fronds making a stark contrast against the blackened rice, and the uni aioli was a wonderful dollop of goodness that heightened each bite.

A scoop of vanilla ice cream topped with Pedro Ximénez was a simple but great finish, and while diners going now will currently have to make do with the restaurant’s wine list — with a great number of local and Spanish wines available, that’s not too hard — they plan on introducing some 20 sherries soon, and will offer flights as well. Another thing to make note of, is that the restaurant has two happy hours, from 4 to 6 p.m. and another from 10 p.m. to 12 a.m. At those times, complimentary tapas will be offered with purchased drinks. 

La Marcha, 2026 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, 510-269-7374 

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About The Author

Alix Wall

Alix Wall

Alix Wall is an Oakland-based freelance writer and certified natural foods chef. Her web site is

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