Chili-Crab Paella Is a Must-Try at This Cheeky Spanish Restaurant

La Picara gets playfully irreverent with Spanish food.

La Picara
2/F One Bonifacio High Street Mall, 28th Street corner 5th Avenue, Bonifacio Global City
Open daily from 11 a.m. to 3 a.m.

PHOTO BY Majoy Siason

(SPOT.ph) Though not as ubiquitous as Japanese or Chinese places, there's no shortage of Spanish restaurants in the local food scene. Usually, they fall in two categories: tapas places or homey restaurants that offer traditional Spanish fare, family-style. Enter La Picara, a colorful joint at One Bonifacio High Street that offers both tapas and Spanish entrees, but also does not quite fall exactly into the aforementioned categories—or in any other box, for that matter.

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PHOTO BY Majoy Siason
Wicker chairs and lush greenery give La Picara a tropical vibe.
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La Picara means “cheeky” in Spanish, according to owner Isabel Calvo, and this playful irreverence for the traditional is reflected everywhere, from the interiors to the menu. “[The menu] is 95% Spanish,” says Calvo. “But we played with Spanish flavors or with the presentation so the food is not what it looks like.” 

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These plates were hand-carried from Australia.
PHOTO BY Majoy Siason
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Nothing else will get you in the mood for their brand of creative Spanish food more than La Picara’s colorful interiors. The space is lush with greenery and made extra vibrant by colorful mosaic tiles. What draws your attention are the plates with different animals in human clothing painted on them. You almost don’t want to put food on these dishes.

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The Kimchi Croquettas are inspired by nigiri.
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We say almost because once you get a platter of the Kimchi Croquettas (P340) on the table, all bets are off. Calvo takes inspiration from the salmon nigiri—the crispy-fried croquettas stuffed with kimchi for a touch of heat serve as the “rice” base. These are topped with salmon, smoked for an extra depth of flavor.

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The Waffletilla de Patata's waffle-shape makes a great base for the aioli and Sriracha mayo.
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La Picara also adds their own twist to the tortilla de patatas—by using a waffle maker instead of a skillet. The result is the Waffletilla de Patata (P340), which looks just like a picture-perfect flour waffle. This one is lighter than your usual breakfast waffle, though, thanks to the potatoes—and you know how waffle lovers argue that the ridges hold the maple syrup and butter better than pancakes? The same can be said for the Waffletilla and the Sriracha mayo and parsley aioli that come with it—which, frankly, you won’t be able to get enough of.

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A crisp tortilla shell just adds an extra layer of crunch to the Sisig Pibil.
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If there’s a cuisine that works perfectly when fused with Spanish, it’s probably Filipino: La Picara supports this statement with the Sisig Pibil Tacos (P290). Crisp and juicy from all the pork juices, this taco makes a mess, but we’re sure you won’t mind. Pair this with a fruity Sangria Picara (P350) to cut through the succulence.

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The Mouse Temptation (P490) is a cheese platter that's served on a mouse trap.
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The Chili Crab Paella is La Picara's spicy twist to the seafood paella.
PHOTO BY Majoy Siason
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But the real must-try here is the paella, specifically the Chili Crab Paella (P890), which Calvo shares is their version of a seafood paella. This one is spread pretty thinly on a cast-iron pan so you get lots of socarrat or the crispy, caramelized rice at the bottom of the pan. The paella itself is sweet-briny from being cooked with crab—and the soft-shell crab on top—and chili adds heat that makes this dish pretty much unique to La Picara. 

In a sea of restaurants that excel in doing things the traditional way, La Picara’s eccentric take on Spanish fare is refreshing. Whenever you want to kick back and unwind with inventive tapas, paella, and more—glass of sangria in hand—you can count on this colorful new addition to BGC.

Photos by Majoy Siason 

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