.Wax the Tables

Hospitality is the name of Chef Paul Iglesias’ game at Parche 

Over the course of an evening, Chef Paul Iglesias materializes at every table in the dining room at his “contemporary Colombian” restaurant, Parche. He arrives unexpectedly, crowned by a black pompadour. The waves on top of his head add a feathery flair, heightening his charisma. Iglesias reads the mood at each table and comports himself accordingly. At our neighbors’ table, he turned into a comedian, gesticulating and delivering jokes in a high-pitched vocal octave. 

Approaching our table, the chef suddenly became more subdued. To match our particular mood, he affected a more serious voice inflected with droll undertones. Shuffling around the room, Iglesias manifested the chummy maitre d’s of lush 1950s technicolor movies. 

It was an old-fashioned, personable approach refracted through the lens of an infinitely more casual 21st century restaurateur. He made it seem like he’d been running Parche for decades rather than a few weeks. When the chef mentioned his previous experience at the Bay Area restaurants Canela and Telefèric Barcelona, it was clear that he’d already perfected his easy, welcoming public persona. 

On the wall behind us, he explained that the series of overlapping posters was a reproduction of Colombian guerrilla street art. In time, they could and would be replaced to change the mood of the room. To our right, a large wooden board covered up a broken window. Having only just opened Parche, I asked Iglesias if he was disappointed by the intrusion. He said that what disappointed him were similar acts of property damage that occurred shortly thereafter in the neighborhood.   

But the lively crowd of mostly younger diners and drinkers appeared to be indifferent to the recurring smash and grabs that had been taking place nearby. They were creating a buzz, engrossed in their conversations and cocktails. After putting in our order for an appetizer and two entrées, Iglesias stealthily returned to convince us to try two more dishes. Of the four types of ceviche, we tried the barranquilla ($18), a vegetarian version. In retrospect, it was the high point for our meal.

Made with roasted baby hearts of palm and crispy chickpeas, the tangy tahini leche de tigre dressing tasted like a chef’s love affair with lime. My favorite ingredient though was the tiny, red Biquinho or “sweety drop” pepper. Pickled, they pop open on the tongue like cherry tomatoes, but are more robust in flavor, with the faintest hint of a beet. My hope is that these peppers start to trend the way that shishitos did a few years back. 

A halved eggplant appetizer, berenjenas arabe ($18), didn’t cast the same hypnotic spell. After recently falling in love with the eggplant dish at KaoKao Grill, where the vegetable is mercilessly roasted to a delectable texture, the flesh in this Colombian preparation was dense, reedy and hard to chew. It’s served with hummus and olives. Iglesias explained that there’s a large Lebanese population who moved to Colombia from the Middle East. In this instance, the history of their migration was more interesting than the attempt at cross-cultural culinary fusion.

Carimañola de queso ($9) is a deep-fried yuca croquette that’s combined with Mahón

and blue cheeses. The result is a crunchy, hearty and filling small plate to share. The larger shared plates are massive enough for a table of, at minimum, four diners. We started with a whole Cornish game hen ($26) and ended with an enormous platter of “12-hour” beef brisket ($40).

It wasn’t enough to provide two sauces, pickled vegetables and limes with the smoked game hen. The order also included a bowl of thick cut yucca fries. By the time the brisket arrived with halved potatoes, cherry tomatoes and salsa, I felt as if I’d been eating for two—me and a fictional twin brother. Although I could only manage a couple of morsels, those 12 hours of cooking had rendered the beef extraordinarily tender. The idea of ordering dessert after this feast made us both laugh, clutch our stomachs and wobble somewhat helplessly out the door.  

Parche, open Mon to Thurs 4:30–9:30pm, Fri 4:30–10:30pm, Sat to Sun 5–10:30pm. 2295 Broadway, Oakland. 510.922.9687. parcheoak.com. 

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