Is there a tapas bar in existence without patatas bravas on its menu? I haven’t yet come across one, although occasionally the preparation has been abstracted, alluded to or pressed into service as a garnish rather than presented as a dish in its own right. Croquetas, Spanish tortillas and grilled sardines are all well and good, but there is something primal about patatas bravas — fried cubed potatoes drenched in spicy tomato sauce and something pretty close to mayonnaise — that the more exquisite citizens of the tapas world don’t quite reach.
Gasolina is a small breakfast-lunch café in the flats of Woodland Hills, on a block that also includes an oil-change shop, a massage parlor and a pub. It probably has the best coffee in the neighborhood, and the locals seem to treat it more or less as a sandwich shop that happens to lean toward northern Spain — chef/owner Sandra Cordero is from Galicia — instead of Italy or Greece. There are omelets stuffed with Spanish chorizo at breakfast, smoked trout salads for lunch and Spanish churros with thick hot chocolate pretty much anytime. Paella night comes once a month.
But it might be worth stopping by just for the patatas bravas — perfectly crunchy, meltingly fluffy inside, and painted with a lovely frieze of aioli and smoky chile sauce, like home fries from heaven. You can get the patatas bravas with serrano ham and a fried egg on top if your tastes run that way, mounded by themselves on a plate, or as a side with almost everything Gasolina happens to sell. The last time I dropped in, I had them with a crisp, delicious slice of Gasolina’s Galician empanada, thin sheets of flaky pastry stuffed with ground meat, hard-boiled eggs and olives. I almost regretted that the lunch was so satisfying — I was too full to hit the samosa shop in the gas station across the street.
21014 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills, (818) 914-4033, gasolinacafecom.