Authentic tapas bar is fun place to hang out
La Maruja is chef Pol Garcia’s latest creation offering a tapas bar in an old Shanghainese villa on Jinxian Road.
The bar’s name La Maruja defines a kind of lady, a stereotypical housewife in Spain, who loves to share a bit of gossip in the neighborhood.
Chef Garcia chose it to illustrate his willingness to offer a witty, fun space for laid-back eating and drinking, a place where you can enjoy small bites while standing with a drink.
La Maruja is housed on the second floor of La Maison, a charming historic house overlooking a spacious courtyard. It accommodates 36 diners inside and 15 outside in its lovely terrace.
Garcia takes his food seriously, and La Maruja is the type of concept he had been wanting to create for a long time.
“After having lived in Shanghai for six years, I believe now is the right time,” the San Sebastian native said.
“I don’t emphasize too much on my personal twist but to perfect the very classic recipes from around Spain. A taste of heritage makes it into every tapas dish.”
In the meantime, he recently opened another La Maruja with two Spanish partners in Koh Tao, Thailand, with a slightly different menu based on the availability of ingredients.
I started with a glass of Txakoli wine from chef’s homeland Basque plus gilda, the most famous pintxos from Basque, before many delicious plates.
Chef Garcia is excited to be the first Spanish chef offering Txakoli wine in the city.
“Txakoli has been linked to our culture for centuries, it is a great accompaniment to our food,” he said. Slightly fizzy, it was excellent with gilda, a simple assembly of Spanish green chili, an olive and an anchovy. One can simply continue to have more Txakoli accompanied by a bowl of mixed olives and garlic.
Among the many tapas at La Maruja, I enjoyed the “bombas” a lot. A signature tapas of Barcelona, the bomb is a deep fried potato and pork croquette with spicy tomato and aioli sauce.
The clams with homemade chorizo in marinera sauce was also perfectly executed. Garcia added chorizo into the standard marinera sauce to make the classic recipe a bit different, but better.
The secret of Garcia’s cooking is to retain the heritage yet refine the usually heavier sauce to make the tapas dish more perfumy and delicate. Other delicious items include pork terrine cold salad, fried eggs with potatoes and sea urchin and Argentinean red prawns.
Garcia is keen on bringing some of the best ingredients, olives and wines to La Maruja but offered at very reasonable prices.
Opening hours: 5pm-11:30pm (Tuesday to Sunday)
Address: 2/F, 210 Jinxian Rd
Average price: 200 yuan (US$28.11)