Crossing the threshold at Casa Cordoba in Montrose is like crossing eight time zones. You land smack dab in southern
. A bubbling fountain in a Spanish courtyard lures you in. Strains of classical guitar draw you deeper inside where custom-built tiled tables and Moorish lanterns stand among Picasso, Miro and Dali prints. Another room holds pretty earthenware imported from villages in Andalusia, traceable on a large, beautifully lit map under glass. Owners Jeannie and Chris Bone took their time decorating the cafe, an homage to their beloved vacation spot of Cordoba, and they did a splendid job.
The food matches the decor — unique yet well-suited to the Southern California lifestyle. Andalusian salads, sandwiches and soups taste just right on the sunny patio. Paella, tapas and sangria jibe with the more sophisticated interior. Even their few breakfast items, like the tortilla bocadillo, a pepper-onion-potato omelet sandwich, sweep you away to a different time and place. Plus, the barista here is superb, creating all sorts of frothy coffee drinks.
Servers dress professionally and act the same. Sometimes the food takes a little longer than expected or they've run out of an item but they're working out the kinks with grace and courtesy. When I notified them my paella was cool, they whisked it back to the kitchen, gave it a high-heated stir fry (wisely keeping the perfectly cooked shellfish aside) and delivered it back piping hot.
So how is the paella? Very nice. Not exquisite like you'd get on the coast of Valencia and a little weak on the saffron for my taste, but the cubes of imported Spanish ham and sausage are wonderful, and the capers add a nice zing ($11.95). What really got me excited, though, was the sopa de Andalucia ($7.50). Chunks of carrot, yam, zucchini and tender garbanzo beans float in a thick tomatoey broth steeped in spices influenced by North Africa like curry, cumin and cilantro. It comes with a dollop of yogurt and rice.
The olives that accompany every meal are delicious, as is the tapenade ($5.95). And the bread is to die for. They fly the bocadillo rolls in from Spain par-baked and finish them up in their ovens. They make for fine sandwiches. Get anything that includes Serrano ham or Manchego cheese. All sandwiches come with field greens and a wonderful sherry vinaigrette.
One other item that must be mentioned is the small plate of meatballs with Spanish spices ($7.95). Nothing like their Italian counterparts, these little ground beef orbs with a springy texture are spicy from chorizo and garlic and bathed in a resonant Espanola sauce. These would be tasty with a glass of Spanish wine, available here. Luckily, Casa Cordoba will soon be open for dinner. In the meantime, for lunch and breakfast, Casa Cordoba is a Montrose gem with food and ambience you'd be hard pressed to find elsewhere.
Where: 2331 Honolulu Ave., Suite C, Montrose
When: Tuesday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Sunday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Prices: Sandwiches, salads & house plates $6.95 to $11.95; Tapas & soups $5.75 to $8.95; Breakfast items and beverages $1.95 to $6.95
Contact: (818) 937-4445; www.casacordoba.us.com