Bullfight Brings Modern Spanish Tapas to Austin

Shawn Cirkiel's newest offering is refreshing and innovative

By Shelley Seale,

Restaurant openings in the new foodie haven that Austin has become seem to be announced every week. Bullfight, the latest from Shawn Cirkiel of Parkside and Olive & June, is one of the most exciting of late. The location is one of the newest trending hotspots in the city, Airport Boulevard, which is undergoing an extensive revitalization initiative with exciting new additions.

The vision for Bullfight came from Cirkiel’s love affair with Spain, which was sparked when he landed his first job out of culinary school at La Marquesa, at the time the only five-star Spanish restaurant in the country. Learning about the food and culture of Spain became a lifelong passion.

Four years prior to opening Bullfight, Cirkiel visited Spain on numerous occasions, exploring the cuisine in different regions, visiting farmers’ markets, jamón and sausage houses, cheesemakers and vineyards, taking in the artisan craftsmanship and savoring the idiosyncratic ingredients.

Grilled octopus — Photo courtesy of Bullfight Austin

Executive Chef Ryan Shields continues to wow diners with Bullfight's tapas-style Spanish menu, that is heavy on seafood and inventive treatments of vegetables.

For example, favorites like the gazpacho made with different ingredients such as corn, tomato or cauliflower; his take on the Spanish tortilla, summer squash blossom and sheep’s cheese; and the purple hull peas with smoked cheese and shallots on grilled bread. Or start with a cheese plate or some of the tasty snacks served in paper cones, such as jamón croquettes, crispy squid and fried eggplant.

Service is excellent but not obtrusive. Suggestions such as a glass of Cava to go along with urchin roe are appreciated; the bright Cava pairs perfectly with the dish's rich flavors.

Urchin roe on bread with lemon and butter, paired with a glass of Cava — Photo courtesy of Shelley Seale

The small plates are perfect for tasting and sharing. The menu changes with the season and locally available ingredients. For instance, some of the delectable sauces include romesco and salsa verde which may be made with various ingredients like hazelnut or scallions – depending on the season.

Light, flavorful fish dishes such as the branzino crudo and marinated octopus are exceptionally done, with layers of complex flavors. There is plenty for the meat lovers as well, from veal sweetbreads and a lamb burger to grilled quail and duck meatballs. And of course, the classic Spanish dish of paella is on Bullfight's menu featuring claims, head-on shrimp and chorizo.

Paella — Photo courtesy of Bullfight Austin

On the drinks menu, of special note, is their housemade Sangria made rich with the use of sherry instead of brandy. The all-Spanish wine list is extensive, curated by advanced sommelier Paul Ozbirn and showcasing the depth of Spanish vintages.

The interior of Bullfight — Photo courtesy of Paula Biehler PR

The space is light and airy, with indoor and outdoor spaces that connect and flow together as one. Check out their happy hour with half off all liquor/cocktails, beer and bar snacks until 6:30 pm, Monday through Friday.