Ataula IS all about tapas. Really beautifully curated, prepared and presented. Unlike the way traditional Basque pintxos, aptly named because of the toothpick spear found holding everything together, the chefs at Ataula use wood serving trays to transport items rather than impale them. What's on the wood is amazing. The presentation is impeccable, much like the incredible flavors locked in every bite.
The special jamon offering on my visit was an acorn-fed pork that was cured to perfection. The octopus was tender and riding atop a trinxat that was dosed with an understated vinaigrette. On to the Xupa-Xup, the chorizo lolli-pop, stuffed with goat cheese, and a touch of membrillo to sweeten the pig candy. It's tapas, so the hits kept coming. The tortilla reminded me of my favorite breakfast spot in the heart of Bilbao. Desserts were mandatory with a stuffed donut pastry and an ice cream with caramelized honeycomb.
It's not Spanish unless there's drinking involved. The not-quite margarita was deserving of a second round. Sangria de la Familia graced the table to keep things truly traditional. Cervezas are local, we're in Portland, Ore., and international for anyone interested in touring through their beers.
Service was also exceptional until the crush came in and overwhelmed the infrastructure. It's tapas, for crying out loud, what's the hurry...
Go early, stay late, bring your A appetite and don't be afraid to get out of your food comfort zone. You'll be wonderfully rewarded.