MONTCLARION: July 7, 2016
Sergio Emilio Monleón and Emily Sarlatte feel like pinching themselves. In just a few years, they’ve taken their passion for paella and turned it into a love fest.
The two Oakland chefs opened La Marcha (www.lamarchaberkeley.com) in Berkeley last fall, and the restaurant is going gangbusters. Patrons are streaming into the warm, rustic space for six kinds of paella and two dozen tapas along with salads and Spanish-inspired desserts. Their drinks include 20 different fortified wines, sweet wines and sherries.
“We were looking all around and kind of fell into this thing,” says Sarlatte, who admits the property at 2026 San Pablo Ave, was basically “just brick walls and a funky floor” before they redid the kitchen, plumbing and floors and built out the bar. Her father — an artist who taught her to cook — helped with the décor.
Sarlatte says it’s shocking how far she and Monleón have come since quitting their restaurant jobs in 2012 to begin a popular catering company called Ñora Cocina Española. As the catering jobs grew, so did their urge to own a restaurant, what Monleón calls his creative release.
And Monleón knows a thing or two about creativity. Every second Sunday from 3 to 8 p.m., he slips into his alter ego as DJ Serg and plays world music at the east end of Lake Merritt. Sometimes he even makes paella for the free dance party, which can draw up to 80 people.
There is clearly a creative flair at the restaurant that even extends into two happy hours from 4 to 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. to midnight. Customers get a free plate of tapas with each purchased drink. It’s what you’d expect from a tapas bar that honors the Spanish tradition of bar crawling. Only with La Marcha — you won’t want to leave.
Smear campaign: Someone with too much time on his or her hands has painted out the ‘M’ in “HOME” on the Skyline Drive earth mural near the gate for Redwood Regional Park. Reader Ken Ball says “judging from the color of the paint … it was the same knucklehead who damaged it last year.” That knucklehead apparently doesn’t know how to spell either.
On Stage: Talk about timely. The return of “Cabaret” to the Bay Area is poignant indeed. Actor Randy Harrison, who plays the smarmy emcee, says the musical set in Berlin during Hitler’s rise to power seems deeply relevant today. In fact, the song “Money Makes the World Go Round” could be a rally cry for anyone alarmed with the growing divide between rich and poor. Beyond the parallels with today’s social and political climate, “Cabaret” is wildly entertaining and on stage at the Golden Gate Theatre through July 17.