Sometimes in life, a door opens, then another one, and suddenly, a green light flashes on an idea hatched months ago: to open a paella restaurant fronted by a churros bar. It’s all a matter of right time, right place. That’s the one-sentence story on how the owners of Northwest Portland’s oft-lauded Ataula decided to open not one, but two new Spanish food spots on Northeast Broadway.
As Eat Beat has learned, Christina Baez and Jose Chesa, Portland Monthly’s 2014 Chef of the Year, just inked a lease at 2200 NE Broadway for Chesa, a paella-focused restaurant, and 180, Portland’s first shop devoted to Spanish churros (a kind of thin, elongated doughnut), and its essential companion, hot drinking chocolate. The two spots will slice up 3,600 square feet, with 180 up front, and Chesa holding the lion’s share in back. Right now, they’re shooting to open by late November or early December.
The couple, who met in the kitchen of Catalonia's famed Can Fabes restaurant, have been scheming of new ways to express their love of paella, Ataula’s breakout hit (the arroz negre paella, soaked in squid ink, is one of the Portland’s must-eat dishes). The idea cinched when they test-drove recipes in Spain’s coveted, charcoal-fired Josper oven; they’ve already snagged one for the new kitchen. Meanwhile, Chesa feels he has perfected the art of the churro, which he plans to infused with flavors like dulce de leche, chocolate-salt, and crema Catalana to pair with rich, hot chocolate flowing from a fountain. The name 180 pays homage to the correct temperature of the fryer oil.
The new Chesa restaurant will focus on a handful of paellas rooted in tradition, with some modern twists, plus a few tapas, Iberico ham, and lots of vermouth, sherry and txakoli wine. Anyone who’s eaten at Ataula knows one thing: Chesa loves his now-retired father, whose restaurant outside of Barcelona was a go-to for factory workers. This place is no exception: the restaurant is named in his honor. They plan to surprise him with the new concept on a visit to Portland this month. That’s a dinner I’d like to be at.