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A brief roundup on all the restaurants we tried over the last week in Barcelona:
Barra Alta- Absolutely fabulous, do not miss lunch here! Would recommend the oyster cocktail, with clamato juice, delicious. Tomato bread incredibly crispy and just amazing. The scallop and lobster tostada- delicious. The salmon cheek croquettes were nice though quite fishy and not my top recommendation. Tacos conchinita pibil- having just come off a 3 week Mexican foodie trip, I will say the taco texture was good, but the dish was too sweet and had no heat. Croquettes foie- yummy though not elevated so maybe don't waste your hunger on this? The plums of pork- perfect, divine, beautiful. The scallops with asparagus were perfectly cooked and the safran flavor was lovely. The chocolate and olive oil for dessert was not sweet but had the quality of a rich amazing brownie, fabulous. The wines they have by the glass are the best we had this whole trip.
Gresca- Its my second time here and though some dishes are strong, I really don't think this place works. Some staffers from other restaurants said its better to do the bar and bar snacks, rather than the tasting menu, so maybe try that instead? The food is good, but not at the level of the rest of the meals we had this trip. We got the short tasting menu, starting with a nice shrimp and zucchini curry, and the shrimp were perfectly cooked. Then the iconic egg soufflé, with was perfect. The fish of the day was a scorpion fish with hazelnuts and tomato in a fish broth, well prepared but the flavours just didn't work for me. Then the pigeon, which was very nice. The cassis palate cleanser wasn’t great. The dessert of chocolate, salty caramel, and lemon peel was delicious.
Teoric- WOW this place is absolutely amazing. If I lived in Barcelona I would come to this place at least once a month. There were the delicious croquets chicken shrimp, the bright incredible vegetable toast where you could taste the pop of every flavor of veggie, the most perfectly cooked and unctuous cod with black garlic, the perfectly cooked warm and rich octopus and pork belly, and the shrimp carpaccio and risotto (or as they called it 'shrimp rice') that had this rice that perfectly cooked in rich shrimp broth that was WOW. The beef and figs was not the best, but was nice and rich, with a great crust on the beef. For dessert the almond flan with lemon cinnamon ice cream was a lovely finish and the flan was perfectly cooked.
Bicnic- Hmm, have mixed feelings here. Some dishes were great, others not. The ravioli was delicious, with amazing dough and the foam was so savoury and umami, very Japanese. The tiradito of tuna with fresh citrus was very balanced, if sightly over sauced. The fried eggs with burrata and mushrooms was a very rich dish that would be great for breakfast, but for me not worth filling up on it for dinner and the uni gets lost in the dish. The smoked tartar with eel and marrow was a highlight- perfectly seasoned and delicious. i didn't like the oyster, there was just too much going on so you lost the flavour of sea. The chocolate dessert- rich but nice. The sheeps merengada- odd, not sure I liked it. Overall, as I said, a mixed meal for me.
Disfrutar- Second time here, and loved it even more. We got the festival of 30 courses, and unlike the classic menu, this one really takes you on an amazing culinary voyage around the world, from Spain to Japan, to Morocco, to Mexico, and back to Asia again. Many of the dishes were really incredible and I won’t go into them, since they are better left as surprises. But there were a few, just a few, where all there was, was fancy technique, but the flavors themselves just weren’t there. There was for example one dessert that was a deconstructed tarte au citron. Fancy techniques, but ultimately a nice tarte au citron from a French bakery would have been much better. The other problem was the wine pairing. At least half, if not more, of the pairings were sweet wines, sherries, ports. It was sweet after sweet after sweet. But overall, still one of my favorite restaurants in the world. Service was fab, they really seemed to listen to and care about our feedback at the end, and it is just the best way to spend four hours with someone you love, enjoying incredible dishes.
Mont Bar- another WOW, this place was not packed when we went, and I cannot figure out why. Absolutely incredible. Do yourself a favor, get the corn and jalapeño taco, a plate of the amazing jamon, the straciatella which is brilliant in its concept and essence, the tuna belly which is smoky, soft, stunning, and the pork terrine, so delicious and technically perfect. The desserts were as good, if not better, the chocolate whiskey dessert- WOW, not too rich, not too sweet, fantastic. The carrot cake was fresh, creative, and delicious. And the jerusalem artichoke, chocolate, coffee taco- it best bite of the meal, and maybe the best bite I had the entire trip. On the other side, I would not recommend the scallop ceviche- it is a strange combo of flavors. And the foie sandwich was nice, but nothing exceptional. Since some of the dishes are so incredible, best not to waste your appetite on the less exciting ones.
Dos Palillos- Where to start? This spring I did the most insane foodie trip across Japan, eating at the best restaurants the country has to offer. As a result, I have no interest in eating Japanese for quite some time, as it is likely to disappoint. However, I thought Dos Palillos would be more fusion than straight Japanese, so decided to go for it. The counter setting is nice, and overall it was a fun meal with decent service. However, when it comes to the food, I have to say that many of the dishes had muted Japanese flavors, but with no exciting flair of fusion, beyond when it came to techniques being used. The exception was one or two bites that seemed more Chinese inspired, which were nice. There were a few standouts, including the wagyu steak, which was proper A5 grade, and delicious pork belly. Overall I would say that if you are looking for one of Barcelona’s more exciting meals, this isn’t it, especially if you have had the luxury of eating great food in Japan.
Alkimia- I have to say in terms of the interior, the strange costumes servers have to wear, and the less than friendly services, I really didn’t like the vibe of the place. However the food was stunning, really a near perfect meal. I got the chef’s menu, and my husband got a mix of that and the classic menu, because of a few items that he doesn’t eat on the chef’s menu. His classic dishes were superb on flavor, and were classic in terms of technique. One of the best dishes he had was this perfect leek tart. But there were also some stunning dishes on my menu and I think overall, we got the sense that the chef’s menu is more exciting and were happy we chose it. There was a mushroom dish, that stands out as the best mushroom dish I have ever had and likely will ever have. Another was a stunning piece of fish with cabbage, and the red meat course which was pigeon, was the best pigeon we had on a trip where we had at least five pigeon dishes as that seems to be very on trend these days.
Tickets- Hmmm, really mixed feelings about this place. Atmosphere I think is terrible- neon signs, tv screens, tacky interior and tacky costumes on the staff. You feel like you are being served in a factory lineup. It has none of the atmosphere of most top restaurants that I have been to and has no intimacy. At the beginning my husband and I listed different likes and dislikes, and I requested certain dishes- they totally ignored this, gave us the same menu as eachother, and as everyone else around us, and didnt include any of the dishes I had asked for until the end when I had to ask again. We didn't drink at this meal so I cannot comment on the wines. On dishes, some were really outstanding, others less so. The tomatoes ice tea as a start was fresh, delicious, and full of flavor, really not to miss. The olive- this is a dish I have had many iterations of including back in the day at Commerc 24, and at Disfrutar. This one had the most olive flavor and a nice and different texture. The tomato garlic bite was nice and delicate but punchy. The thinnest sandwich was a nice ode to local cuisine. The tuna belly and smoky cherry- this dish is amazing, especially the cherry. The avocado nigiri had wonderful flavor. The cheese and beef baguette was nice- again an ode to local flavours. The tomato and burrata was nice and fresh. The nordic landscape was a fantastic mix of flavours, maybe best dish of the night. The king crab ravioli was too big, and the crab had a fishy taste that you get with bad crab, and was quite unpleasant. I hate licorice so the grilled lettuce were an unpleasant surprise. I didn't like the eggplant and bone marrow, not exceptional. The razor clam was nice and fresh, with a lovely sauce- this is one of the items I needed to request. I had two different types of oyster, both very nice and not over complicated so allowed me to taste the oyster and brine. The foie with smoked eel was very nice. The cherry with sake and rose litchi ball was a lovely transition. But then the desserts- didnt like a single one very much, they were just sweet, not multidimensional, nothing too exciting beyond presentation.
Enigma- Out of respect for the concept I wont go into details. What I would say is that I highly recommend this place, way ahead of Tickets, and perhaps just a cut above Disfrutar as well. A few minor flaws in that my husband is left handed, and they set the table the wrong way around throughout (not a big deal anywhere else but if you are at the top of the top, you can nitpick about things like that). He said to them he didn't eat clams, and they said that they had cockles on the menu but that was different to clams. First time for him eating cockles, only to find out they are salt-water clams and so unfortunately had to skip that course, though the chef made up for it with some lovely wagyu slices. I hated the interior, which to me looks like a bad stage set, and the staff outfits, they look like they are in some bad modern dance troupe. But these are all minor things. The food is truly outstanding and a testament to technique augmenting the food, not just being there to show off about the cook techniques of the chef. The one big issue for me is the alcohol pairing. The wines were just terrible for me as a pairing, fighting with each dish. The sommelier told me this is on purpose- they choose to do a pairing to highlight contrast... For me, it ruined each dish to have a sip of the wine in between, it was that much of a 'constrast'. With one pairing choice the sommelier told be that, 'you can serve bubbles any time, they are always nice, so we decided to serve them here.' I was astounded that with food that incredible, so little thought seems to have gone into the pairing. I had so many other ideas of what could have paired with the different courses so I don't buy the line (which she gave us) that it is a tough menu to pair. And when we made clear early on in the menu that we hated the pairing, the staff had no interest in trying to address that and make some changes for us. All of that being said, this is some of the best food in the world in my view, and so worth it, just don't get the pairing! He is currently on a Japanese-influenced kick so I would actually request that they do a sake pairing for the meal- all the courses could have been paired with different and distinct sakes.
Pur- Definitely recommend this place. Lovely setting, great seafood. The amuse of a perfect fried zucchini flower stuffed with cod, in the lightest batter was a great start. The scampi tartar with avocado was delicious with just a hint of spice, beautiful. The oyster had too much butter for me to really enjoy the flavor of the sea. The grilled lettuce hearts were smokey and amazing. The tuna belly is outstanding, though the red jelly blobs on the dish get stuck in your teeth like caramel in a very unpleasant way and is a design flaw in the dish. We got the scampi, but a half portion, and they were incredible. The foie cooking with onion juice was a disappointment. it is duck not goose foie, and lacked a bit in flavour and excitement. The wagyu steak- I am a firm believer that eating wagyu as a fat steak is doing a serious disservice to the wagyu as that method of cooking doesnt allow the fat to melt into the meat, and so for me it is never worth eating this way. But for what it was, it was good. We had grilled peppers as a side which were very nice. For dessert, the bread with chocolate and olive oil- WOW, the most literal version of this dessert that I had on this trip, and maybe the best. You tasted the salty bread, the strong olive oil, and the bitter chocolate, and it is fabulous. We also at the fig dessert which was nice, and the quality of the figs were great.
Rocambolesc- despite this being the ice cream brainchild of the Roca brothers, to me this was just soft serve with toppings, nothing special, besides the method by which they make the ice cream sandwich. Maybe the popsicles are more interesting? Not worth a detour for the soft serve at least in my view.
Dr. Stravinsky- fabulous drinks, great atmosphere, totally worth the wait, which is shorter than it looks.
Paradiso- same guys as Stravinsky, also very good drinks, and more of a fun party vibe.
Savage- drinks are decent, but not exceptional.
Impur- downstairs from Pur, very interesting cocktails but at least the night we were there, we were the only customers, so not the greatest atmosphere.
Here are the restaurants I am still keen to try, based on recs we got mainly from staff at the top restaurants in the city, as well as some foodies including on Chowhound: Coure, Monochrom, Estimar, La Barra de Carles Abellan, Sergi de Meia, Taverna del Clinic, Mala Hierba, Plata Bistro, Bar Canete, Cal Pep (though folks said it is only for tourists), Tapeo, Espaisucre (all desserts tasting menu but sounds great, place of the El Bulli dessert chef), Via Veneto, Somodo, Lluritu, Masala73.
And outside of Barcelona: Hispania, Els Casals in Sagas
And bars we still want to try, based on recs from the different bartenders and foodies that we met: Dry Martini, Cocteleria Boadas, Farola, Creps de Borne
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