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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.  

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