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Monday, July 25, 2011

Probably our new Barcelona favourite. We call it Awesome Place.

Torta de camaron - shrimp pastry

Tomato bread
Tuna tartar
Steak tartar
Potato wedges
Fried seafood (squid, langoustine, shrimp) and citrus fruits
Razor clams
Steamed clams with fresh thyme and garlic
Scooping up the delicious broth with a shell
Grilled langoustines
Chorizo and potato
Grilled ribeye
Oxtail casserole
Triple chocolate cake
Chocolate bomb stick thing
Apple tart
Other delicious desserts, not tasted
View to kitchen from the bar
Great name, great label, very nice green wine
Long, narrow interior
LOCATION: Awesome Place, secret location, Barcelona, Spain
CATEGORY: Traditional and regional Spanish, raçiones/tapas
DRINK: Afortunado Verdejo 2010 Vinedos Singulares. For dessert: "Lauro" orujo hierbas (herbal liqueur) 
WE THINK: We promised our local hookup not to tell anyone about this restaurant, which has so far managed to stay under the tourist radar. We decided to almost keep our promise by refraining from naming it--instead referring to it as Awesome Place--but it's simply too good not to share at all (our modest number of readers will probably be able to identify Awesome Place by studying the above photos). We were sat at the long bar overlooking the kitchen though there are also a couple of larger tables in the back and a couple of booths in the front. Watching the tightly run kitchen in action and chatting with the fun and energetic chefs and waiters was half the experience so this is strongly recommended. We asked our waiter to bring the four of us the dishes he thought we should try this evening which turned out to be a good decision and saved us the trouble of translating the Catalan menu. The food at Awesome Place is well-executed, traditional Spanish with specialties from various regions. We loved all the seafood dishes (including a delicious squid sandwich which we ate without taking a picture, but perhaps not so much the razor clams which were brinier than we normally like them). The meat dishes we tried were also delicious--especially the tasty steak tartar and the succulent oxtail. We were totally stuffed after the oxtail bomb but luckily we're fitted with a separate belly for desserts, and managed to squeeze down a few of the many delicious-looking cakes without too much subsequent discomfort. We particularly enjoyed the surprisingly light and fluffy triple chocolate cake accompanied by shots of Orujo Hierbas while watching all the chefs clean the kitchen at 2am. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Getting Cal Peppy in Barcelona

Razor clams
"Pimientos de Padrón"
Deepfried whitebait
Tuna tartar
Spanish omelette
Seating area at bar/kitchen
Seafood fridge
Coke from a tiny glass bottle. The best.
Mr. Pep
LOCATION: Cal Pep, Plaça de les Olles, 8, Barcelona, Spain
DRINK: Coca-Cola from a tiny glass bottle and Vichy Catalan sparkling water
WE THINK: We had heard so much hype about Cal Pep that we almost didn't want to go, expecting that it'd be a huge disappointment and full of other tourists. But obviously we had to go. The fear of missing out on a potentially amazing meal was greater than the fear of being annoyed and disappointed. We got there 45 minutes before closing and were lucky to be the last people who were let through the door to join the long line of waiting customers. At least 20 disappointed tourists who came after us (the locals knew better) were turned away by the grumpy waiter at the door. One women broke into tears, pointing to her watch and looking at the waiter in disbelief. We gave her a sympathetic (could be misinterpreted as smug) smile. At Cal Pep you can sit at the bar, overlooking the kitchen, or you can sit in a dark, stuffy room behind the toilets at normal tables. We sat at the bar and were served by Mr. Pep himself. Our food was delicious. Almost annoyingly so. The razor clams possibly the best we've ever had and the clams way up there, too. We eyed with great food-envy some teeny-tiny long-neck clams and a pan-fried whole bream that the old guy sitting next to us was eating, but unfortunately we had already ordered tuna tartar and omelette (both good but not nearly as delicious-looking as his food). Next time.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Alchemy in Barcelona - maybe not so much

Shot of liquid tomato bread (tomato broth, olive oil and bread crumbs)
with cured sausage
Seaweed salad
"Spaghetini with seafood"
(zucchini peel noodles, cockles, barnacles, seaweed and  fish roe)
Tomatoes "trinxat" with codfish and fresh almonds
Pickled oysters with glazed pork cheek and sautéed spinach
Cuttlefish with ink sauce and ginger
Prawn "a la mano" (salt, bay leaves, clove, lime)
Rice with nyoras, saffron and fresh langoustine
Fish of the day with pickled onion, onion pureé and black olive
"Special chickpeas with skin" (chickpea gnocchi)
Pickled morel with pine nuts and pickled cherries
Beef with spring vegetables and mustard seeds
Strawberries with cucumber gazpacho and sheep milk ice cream 
Chocolate fondant with burned rum ice cream
Petit fours (left to right: lolly of passion fruit sorbet dipped in white chocolate,
cucumber melon water with fresh mint and fruit,
2 other pretty delicious  things we can't remember) 
LOCATION: Alkimia, C/ Industria, 79 Barcelona, Spain
CATEGORY: Fine dining, Catalan, Spanish, Pretentious
DRINK: Glass of cava followed by Nora da Neve 2007 Albariño Rias Baixas (white)
WE THINK: Maybe we're being pissy, but to us Alkimia seemed a little pretentious and dated. First, there's the introduction to the Michelin-starred restaurant on the front page of its website: “Through the knowledge of nature, beginning with history and a feeling, the transformation and the search for the purification of the soul through a noble and magic journey for the attainment of the final palate pleasure”. And the introduction to Jordi Vilà, Alkimia’s founder and head-chef, on said website: “Internationally renowned as a creative culinary asset with the highest potential...with intelligent winks to memory and daring foresight, he takes us to a unusual universe of colours that “alchemically” transform the finest raw ingredients into new classics of contemporary 21st century cuisine”. Then there’s the over-styled interior, the waiters' silly outfits, and the service which is friendly and professional but in an almost robo-slick way. Disclaimer: though we tried to let the food speak for itself, being impressionable and grumpy, these factors may have influenced our overall rating of Alkimia. The food: we went all out for what our waiter described as the ‘more experimental and seafood-oriented’ (and more expensive) of the 2 available tasting menus. If asked to give our overall opinion of the 15-or-so dishes--bearing in mind the Michelin-starred fine dining bracket which Alkimia falls into--the word that springs to mind is “meh”. In other words: nice but not memorable. This could be why our strongest taste memories are the first and last bites we took: the very delicious liquid tomato bread amuse-bouche and the explosive ball of passion fruit sorbet and white chocolate. The 13 dishes in between were yummy enough but just not that exciting, the tomatoes and cod-fish, the cuttlefish, the chickpea gnocchi and the strawberry-cucumber dessert being the highlights.  

Friday, July 15, 2011

Kaiku - rice to the occasion!

Tiny fried fish (sonso) with partridge eggs
Vichy Catalan and cold prosecco
Zamburiñas (small scallops) with ginger sauce
"Xef rice" - paella with smoked Carpier DO. Delta D'Ebre rice,
seafood, vegetables and seasonal mushrooms
Outside tables at Kaiku
LOCATION: Kaiku, Plaça del Mar, 1, La Barceloneta, Barcelona, Spain
CATEGORY: Rice, Spanish, Catalan
DRINK: Caus Prosecco and Vichy Catalan sparkling water
WE THINK: (Yes, we are fully aware of how terrible that pun is. It's very terrible) We wanted to go to Kaiku on our last visit to Barcelona but were sloppy with reservations and instead ended up at another great, but far less popular, rice restaurant. On this trip, we managed to get a table outside (10% more expensive but preferable to the brain-melting heat inside) for a late lunch. A few of the non-rice items on the menu had unfortunately already sold out (like the “crispy moray skin with lime and ají molí” and the maybe-maybenot-delicious-sounding “octopus with avocado and green curry, slightly spicy”). We did pretty well without these, though. We loved our tiny crispy fish--delicious with the yolk of the partridge eggs smothered over them--and the delicate and very tasty mini-scallop Zamburiñas with ginger sauce, a great companion for shellfish. For rice, we went with our head-to-toe-tattooed awesome waitress’ recommendation, “Xef rice” (smoked rice with seafood), though it was hard to resist ordering black rice. The Xef rice was good, the shellfish garnish perfectly cooked and the rice al dente and flavourful.