Thanks to all who posted recommendations about Barcelona. Here is a long story about my meal at Coure
Getting Stuffed in Catalonia
October 21, 2009
Where to Eat? - The Big Decision
Last week, I was in Barcelona for a conference which was held in an outer neighborhood, so I stayed an extra day and a half to really see the city.
I knew the food options were good but was overwhelmed by Chowhound posts – there are LOT of great restaurants cooking modern Catalan cuisine. After all, this is the home region of Ferran Adria, the father of molecular cuisine. After much consideration and hand-wringing I chose Coure based on reviews and websites. (If I spent as much time on important decisions as I do on where to eat in a new city, I would be, well, someone else I guess.)
I had my hotel make the reservation for 9 pm, which is of course when the restaurant opened. I decided to make the 30 minute walk from my hotel. The neighborhood is beautiful, and similar to Paris in a number of ways.
Getting Seated and What To Eat?
I arrived ready to eat. However, the hostess/waiter/manager (more on this late 20’s Supergirl in a moment) didn’t have my name. But, she said no problem, they could seat me. However I noticed that one of the other restaurants on my list, Hisop, was across the street and I went over just to make sure that either I, or the hotel, hadn’t made a mistake. They didn’t have a reservation either. (Although weirdly they had a reservation for a Fleming the following night. Since that was noted to be a 50th wedding anniversary, I was pretty sure it wasn’t mine.) As I thanked them and left, the host at Hisop said cheerily that if for some reason Coure couldn’t serve me, they would find me a table.
So consider for a moment what just happened – two top end restaurants both offered, happily, to seat me as a single, without a reservation. I can’t imagine that in many other places.
Back to Coure. The two rooms are below street level with white walls and really nice art. Seats about 30 people in total at about 8 tables. As I watched while eating, I realized that the woman who seated me also took the orders, poured the wine and served, with the help of only 2 others. She had time to discuss both food and wine when she came by my table. Very good service from a very small team.
Barcelona is big on seafood. The menu had about 10 starters, 5 fish dishes and 5 meat/vegetarian entrees. It is customary to have both a fish and a meat dish. Coure’s theme for some of its dishes is “interpretations” of more recognizable dishes. No weird food science going on, but lots of deconstruction. I chose the tasting menu, at 45 euro.
At Last - The Meal
The amuse bouche looked like a fried egg, but wasn’t. Instead it was a puddle of pumpkin cream with a scoop of vanilla cream in the middle. On the side were sautéed death trumpet mushrooms. (Among other talents, Supergirl knew all the English names for each dish and ingredient.) As with many of the dishes, it was served room temperature. Based on this dish, my hopes soared.
My first course was “onion soup” without the onions. It features a low-cooked egg (poached at 150 degrees for 25 minutes, giving it a custard consistency) nestled on a bed of crispy (flash fried?) quinoa. On the side was a ravioli stuffed with melted comte cheese. It came in a bowl, and the waiter then poured chicken stock on the side, turning the quinoa into something like delicious oatmeal. The egg flavor was extremely concentrated and the ravioli delicious. However, it was hard to make sense of the dish in its entirely. .
The salad looked like a fishy version of Caprese, but again I was fooled. A small cluster of micro-greens (from a very small garden plot, no doubt) and blanched and seeded tomatoes (the advantage of sous-chefs who can be worked like dogs) was contained by several sardines chasing each others’ tails. The surprise was the “mozzarella”, which was in fact a soft Spanish cheese, whipped with cream and CHILLED to ice cream! The deception was so good that I was shocked at the temperature when I first tasted it. The sardines were among the best I have had – essence of ocean. The whole thing was a marvel.
Next came their version of gazpacho, I think. Barely grilled squid was sitting on a bed of diced green beans, avocado and pesto. On the side of the bowl were mystery white beans, that had a seed-like texture. By now the wine may have been having an effect, as they turned out to be huge almonds. Again, this dish was barely warm.
On to the fish pizza. A rare-grilled sea bream was nestled in a tomato oregano sauce. The fatal flaw in this dish, for me, was cantaloupe. (I would rather be water-boarded than eat the appropriately names musk-melon. At least I imagine I would.) Even though I avoided the vomitous poison, this dish just didn’t overwhelm me as much as the rest of the meal.
The onslaught continued with the meat, which wasn’t disguised as anything else. In some ways that was a relief by this point in the meal. Lamb shoulder was served with a reduced stock and goat milk froth (try getting that at the corner store). On the side were some perfect white onions. The lamb had been cooked sous vide (French for “can’t do this at home”) for 24 hrs. I am always amazed at how the flavors get concentrated in sous vide. Amazing dish
Wait, there’s more.
Of course, what meal would be complete without cheese? In this case, 5 Catalan cheeses, arranged in order of strength. Except for cabral, I hadn’t heard of any of them. Several were outstanding, the others merely excellent. The obligatory quince paste and fig jam were served on the side (Has anyone every had quince paste anywhere but on a cheese plate?)
For some reason, I was then served a savory dessert - pear ice cream with diced poached pear and herb syrup redolent (what a word) with rosemary. I am a big fan of herb desserts, and this one was the best I have had.
By now I was in a food and wine coma, so was barely aware when Supergirl placed a sweet dessert in front of me – a slice of almond cake with poached apricots and a coffee reduction. If I said I remembered what it tasted like, I would be lying.
I Drink Alone (a nod to G Thoroughgood. Turn up the volume)
The wine list was small and, as with the other lists I saw in Barca (or is it Bartha?), very reasonable. The most expensive bottle was 60 euro, and there were lots in the 15-25 euro range. I started with a glass of a vignonier that had some depth and herbal shit going on. I then ordered a bottle of 2005 Mas Perinet from Priorat. It was a Rhone blend, and worked well with all those varied and weird tastes after the 3rd course. Even though I left some in the bottle, the last note I took on the meal was “gbng”.
It was midnight, for God sakes! I begged for mercy and they relented and brought me the check.
Total cost - $125, even with compulsive American overtipping. Supergirl and her Justice League team deserved it.
Total elapsed time from getting seated to lurching to the door – 2.5 hours.
So that about wraps up my report. Any questions?