Yes - another "Where to Eat" ...
I apologize in advance if it has been asked many times but I feel somehow lazy to check every single topic on this regard.
We arrive in Barca Saturday Evening. Tuesday visiting Figueres and Girona; off for two days to Madrid and than back to Barca Friday afternoon.
We are in our early 30s and - as everyone in this forum - we love food wine and a good atmosphere. I believe that there are some good reviews for Abac, Cinc Sentis, Cal Pep, Commerç 24 etc and for the not-to-be-missed La Bouqueria, but what is your pick for the following days:
1 –Dinner on :Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Friday
2 – Lunch on :Sunday and Monday.
3 - Girona and/or Madrid recommendation would be a bonus.
Also any suggestions on menu choices is greatly appreciated!
I was in Barcelona and Girona recently. Here are some of my suggestions:
Saturday dinner - Cinq Sentits. Have the tasting menu with wine pairings.
Sunday lunch - La Dama. A really wonderful traditional Catalan restaurant with a Michelin star. Very elegant and old-world. The pig's feet were amazing, the lobster paella perfect, and canneloni (you get 4 as an appetizer, but you could ask for a half order, it's a huge amount of food). This was a wonderful contrast to the very modern food we had at Cinq Sentits and Alkimia.
Sunday dinner - Senyor Parellada. There are very few restaurants open Sunday night. This is a simple traditional with very good food and cheap compared to the other places we went.
Monday dinner - Alkimia. This was a little more cutting edge than Cinq Sentits, but not as crazy as some of the really avant-garde. Food was IMO a bit better than Cinq Sentits though it was less expensive. The 6-course menu had as much food as the 8-course at Cinq Sentits. Alkimia has a Michelin star. If you can only go to one of these I would make it Alkimia.
I wish I could recommend something in Girona, but our lunch experience at Can Roca was disappointing. There have been postings on this board praising it to the sky, and it does have 3 Michelin stars. However, I just don't get it. I love innovative food and unusual presentations, but this was so over-the-top avant-garde that some of the flavor combinations just made no sense to me. Cold cherry soup with prawns? Weird. They have a DKNY dessert (as in the perfume). Not so bad but not wonderful either, just silly. I had expected this to be a good substitute for El Bulli, where of course I could not get a reservation, but if the food at EB is anything like this, I have no desire to try it.
We had dinner that day at Can Fabes in Sant Celoni, which is between Barcelona and Girona. This was one of the best meals we had in Spain. It has 3 Michelin stars and is modern without the craziness. The goat and the sweetbreads were great, shrimp "ravioli" interesting and delicious. The various canapes, amuses, and between course tastes were absolutely wonderful. You might make it your lunch stop on the way to Girona. If you go for dinner you may want to stay in Sant Celoni overnight. The restaurant has rooms, but unnecessarily expensive. The hotel Suis 2 blocks away is a fraction of the cost and is very nice.
Thank you for your suggestions! I was reading the other day that Cinc Sentis tends to get boring after the third course. Is this the case? Shall we go for the shorter testing menu (6 courses) instead of the longer one - does the shorter version come with wine pairing? Also do you know if Alkimia has a webpage? I can't seem to find it. I have to visually like the place first. I have to say that i am very intrigued with La Dama...and Senor Parellada is a must.
What's your opinion - if you have one - for Cal Pep or Passadis del Pep? Seems as if the Mayflower landed over there :o)? I am leaning more toward Quimet Quimet or even Cerveceria Catalana.
Haven't figure out Girona yet... still thinking.
Though I liked Alkimia better, I did not feel Cinq Sentits was boring at all. The dishes were all interesting, and I think unless the cost difference is a major concern, it is preferable to go all the way and have the larger menu. I don't know if wine pairings are available for the 6 course menu. I would think they could do it. Alkimia does not have a website. The decor is minimalist with a lot of white, but with low lighting so it doesn't feel sterile. I have not been to any of the other places you mention. Cal Pep does not take reservations, and I think you can only sit at a bar, so to me that is not a great dining experience. Be sure to reserve well in advance for any of the places I suggested, as they do get busy. Cinq Sentits only starts taking reservations 2 weeks in advance, but I would do it exactly on the day they start to get the time you want.
I agree with the above post that the food at Cinc Sentits is not boring though I find the decor more so: a long narrow room with tables on one side, banquettes on the other and not much decoration to speak off.
I am not a fan of Cal Pep either and I've been there 3 times because of friends. The seafood is good and simple but overpriced. And if one isn't in line when it opens, prepare for a long wait, as people tend to linger. I also don't enjoy standing behind other diners waiting for their seat. They do take reservations but only for the back room which I find pointless. Passadis del Pep is a more formal take on Cal Pep with table seating and reservation.
Quimet & Quimet is a bit out of the way in Poble Sec and it only serves cured meats, cheeses, preserved and canned seafood (not a minus since Spain produces some of the best). They do not have a kitchen and it is all standup and very crowded. More of a wine bar than a tapas place.
Cerveceria Catalana is big, fun and crowded with something for everyone: tapas, pintxos, 1/2 racions and full portions. The food is hit or miss but it is open Sunday nights, which is a big plus.
Comerc24 has great décor and buzz. I had an excellent meal there couple years ago but others that I recommended to have not been so fortunate.
Senyor Parallada is a large bustling restaurant with a huge menu. I wouldn't say it is a must. The food is decent to good but the selling point is that it is inexpensive and fun. Don't get seated upstair as most of the action is in the large downstair room.
I just returned from Barcelona and I had great tapas and good desserts at Paco Meralgo, good pintxos at Tactica Berri and an excellent tasting menu at Sauc.
I also dined at El Celler de Can Roca in Girona (my third meal in the past three years). This restaurant can be a wonderful experience or not depends on individual’s taste. The food can be uneven (mostly conceptually) but when the kitchen is on, the food is terrific.
I agree with an above poster about Can Fabes that it serves the best food in Spain. Don’t expect any molecular cooking but just the best ingredients cooked to perfection. The service is somewhat formal but not stiff. If one goes for lunch on a weekday, the restaurant tends to be very low key, therefore, don’t expect a lot of buzz. If it was just food alone, this would be my restaurant in Spain
For Madrid, I like La Broche for ultra modern, Arce for modern Basque though the décor is somewhat homey and cluttered, Viridiana for eclecticism. Madrid also has some of the best seafood restaurants but they are not much on décor. And all the great tapas places.
For décor and great gelato, check out one of the Giangrossi places…décor to boot.
Thanks! As many cuisine lovers, my choices were/are made based on chowhounders reviews. What i look for - in my travels - is the authentic experience and the local spirit; to try to live and eat (in this case) like Spaniards for 8 days. It's really good to know that Barca has such a great variaty of food to offer, but the more i read strong reviews about certains restaurants, the more i am convinced that those places are becoming a bit touristy :o). I have to listen to my friend that says to choose a good one and go with it. After all it's not the last meal i am having :o).
So many choices, such a short time.
I will take in consideration your suggestion as well!
We had quite a memorable meal at Passadis del Pep last February in Barcelona. I would say that it's probably a restaurant to do with a larger group than 2 (not sure how many you're traveling with), but we had and outstanding, leisurely meal that I was given to understand was as good as Cal Pep (we haven't been there, but have never really heard a bad thing about it), but without the bustle of the bar. Course after course of fresh fish, vegetables, lobster...lots of champagne and some Orujo to top it off.
I have also been to Abac and was not overwhelmed. I thought the food was good but was not blown away and found the place to be stuffy. I was with a larger group, though, and think my companions may have overshadowed the meal. I would return on someone else's dime, probably not my own.
My husband and I went to La Dama in 2001 on our honeymoon and were very very VERY underwhelmed. We still discuss it as one of those "what were we thinking?" choices, even 6 years later. At that time, it was truly a fading glory, not worthy of a star at all. It's too long since to remember what we ate, but we found it uncreative and really quite boring. It's a gorgeous restaurant though, so it would be good to know if their standards have improved since then.
I would definitely lunch at Pinxtos in La Boqueria (maybe even both days! :) ).
As for Madrid, we had a memorable meal at Arce (we're returning to Madrid in 2 weeks with friends and are going back). The decor is nothing to shake a stick at, but the food was outstanding: fresh, creative, not overwhelming (I think we had 9 courses?) and we enjoyed the little tete-a-tete with the chef beforehand.
We mostly grazed on tapas for the rest of the time - we especially enjoyed El Bocaito.
Having only been to La Dama for the first time last month, I cannot speak for how it was in 2001, but I would hope the OP would not avoid it based on how it may have been at that time. This was without doubt one of the best traditional meals I have had anywhere in Europe. It is not cutting-edge and really should not be compared with the many newer restaurants. It's a different experience but for me no less interesting.
I'm truly glad to hear that you had a good experience...my husband and I have discussed more than once about what a lovely place it was and how it would be great to see it pull itself back up to one-star standard. However, having been to Barcelona many times since 2001, it still stands as my most disappointing experience - and in a city that has so many exciting food options, I'd have to hear a LOT of buzz about a regeneration at La Dama before I returned.