While I realize that paella isn’t a specialty of Catalunya, it was the only request I had from my fellow traveler on her first trip to Spain. After checking my CH sources, I saw that Set Portes (or Siete Puertas) had a selection of paellas as well as other Catalan specialties, and was probably worth visiting just for the atmosphere, being the second oldest restaurant in Barcelona. We made our way toward the waterfront at around 10pm for dinner, and saw that there was a line of several parties in front of us, but were told it would be about a 15 minute wait.
As soon as we sat down, there was bread and interestingly, a selection of 4 olive oils, from 4 different regions of Spain. We proceeded to have an olive oil tasting among the four choices, and we both agreed that the one from Girona was the best according to our taste. Here’s a photo (blurry): http://farm1.static.flickr.com/209/48...
For starters, we ordered the tomato bread with anchovies, the giant asparagus with three sauces, and for our entrée, we ordered the house “parellada” paella for two. And from the recited specials, we ordered some kind of stew with squid (I believe).
The pa amb tomaquet (tomato bread) was in classic form, and with the addition of nice plump anchovies on top, it added a new dimension to the dish, which I enjoyed immensely. The squid in the stew was a miss for us. It contained some kind of legume or grain (lentil or barley?) that gave it an unnecessary earthy flavor that I didn’t quite care for. The squid was good, but we left most of the stew untouched. The asparagus appetizer included 4 mega pieces of asparagus (of the pickled variety) with a trio of sauces: a mayonnaise, an herb-infused olive oil, and a light romesco dipping sauce. I liked each of the sauces on their own, but I was really won over by the mayonnaise. It was homemade, and all I could taste was the flavor of good olive oil. I’ve never had that kind of a flavorful olive-y mayonnaise before, but I pretty much lapped it up (with the asparagus).
The paella came after a brief wait, and it was a very good version. It’s obvious that the cooks making the paellas are well experienced. The flavors were well blended and the rice was evenly cooked, and the edges were slightly stiff, but not overcooked. In my experiences with paella, these are the most usual flaws that I notice, especially since it’s difficult to control the heat with the large, shallow paella pans. The seafood and meats were also optimally cooked. As a first paella in Spain, this was a very good introduction. I was leaning more towards the paella negra (black paella with squid, cooked with squid ink), but I was very happy with the parellada version.
7 Portes is a touristy restaurant, but it’s a solid operation that seems to maintain its quality. It’s unfortunate that we didn’t save room for dessert, since they have a long list of good-looking items. If we get there again, I have my eyes set on dessert and the cannelloni.