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Apr 9, 2008 09:21 AM

BCN: sauc/ hisop/ kresala/ alkimia/ drolma/ evo?!

Hello. Has anyone been to any of the above? What are they like? Modern Catalan or more old school and what price range are they for a tasting menu? Have looked for reviews on-line but not much out there and websites are not that forthcoming..

Have been to Commerc 24 (interesting but some communication difficulties), Gaig( more traditional and good), Cinc Sentis (modern but still within comfort zone) before and have a reservation for Can Fabes for Sunday lunch.
Planning on going to Passedis del Pep for our seafood hit and back to El Xampanyet and Paco Meralgo for tapas.

Can't believe no-one raves about Bubo for puddings! Went 3 three in 24hrs to eat the same chocolatey mousse thing.

Thanks for your help.

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  1. Alkimia and Hisop are fairly modern. Sauc is maybe closer to Cinc Sentits, whereas Drolma is more like Gaig. Kresala I've never been (don't even know what it is).
    EVO is Santi Santamaria's outpost in the city, so expect it's style to be similar to Can Fabes.
    If you want seafood I would skip Passadis and go straight to Rias de Galicia instead, much better product for roughly the same money IMHO.

    2 Replies
    1. re: SillyDisciple

      Really? I had gotten the impression that Rais de Galicia was very expensive therefore had excluded it. If you don't mind what price are we talking?

      Kresala is Jean Luc Figueras' new name. I had realised that Evo was a Santamaria run place as soon as I had posted it but thanks for pointing it out, I have thus excluded it.

      So, if you had to pick between Alkimia, Hisop and Sauc? Have you ever been to Alkimia for lunch? It would be a Friday if that made it a better option. Having lunch there would open up our options..

      1. re: rekha

        Passadis has a sort of fixed price daily menu, which if I'm not mistaken is in the 70-80 euro ballpark. In Rias de Galicia you order a la carte, so of course you can go way above this price if you choose the more expensive items, like percebes and the like. However in my experience you can easily stay in the 50-65 euro region.

        I just looked up Kresala, it's not really JLF's new place but rather a high-end restaurant by the Tragaluz group in the same space where JLF's used to be (and Balenciaga's atelier before that, apparently) . The chef is Manel Jimenez. He seems to have a pretty good CV, but I had never heard of him before today.

        I am not a big fan of Alkimia, so I would choose one of the other two. I would go for Sauc if I wanted something more intimate and classic, or Hisop if I wanted something more trendy and innovative. Both are very good options.

    2. Passedis del Pep is fun but the seafood at Rais de Galica is a higher quality and well prepared. Depending on what one orders, it can be very expensive. I agree with the previous post that Drolma and Gaig are similiar in that they are less experimental. The food at Drolma is excellent where as Gaig's food is more 'correct'. Drolma is also very expensive, probably the most expensive in Barcelona (with Abac). I had not been a fan of Alkimia until I had a very good meal last November and the tasting menu is a 'bargain'. It is on par with Comerc24 on the 'experimental scale. Less so is Sauc which I really love. The food has 'depth' of flavor that I found lacking many in 'modern Catalan' restaurants. It is also fun and informal with a charming staff. Hisop has been on top my list for awhile but somehow keep missing it on my visits.
      Do go to Paco Meralgo for tapas. Excellent food and very good desserts. Sit on the counter to watch the action rather than the tables. Also open on Sundays but there is always a wait in the evenings.
      Bubo does have great desserts and wonderful displays. And can't beat the location.
      Can Fabes is a great restaurant...modern take on traditional catalan cooking, best ingredients, excellent service. The small rustic dining room is wonderful and cozy where as the newer addition is more designer and gets a view of the kitchen.

      30 Replies
      1. re: PBSF

        I've just started planning my eating for 5 days in barcelona, my 1st visit, and you seem to know the scene...why isn't anyone talking about Ca l'Isidre? Do you know anything about it? Also, what about Colibri? Thx...

        1. re: luisa dos

          Ca L'Isidre is a somewhat classic restaurant, product oritented and with traditional technique. I've been there only once and found it a bit overpriced and underwhelming. Some people, however, swear by it, and they do use excellent products quality-wise. They offer seasonal traditional Catalan dishes.

          Colibri used to be a small, excellent restaurant in the Raval neighborhood,and they recently (~1-2 years) moved to a new, much larger space above Av.Diagonal. The food is quite modern, similar maybe to Saüc, with very good product and pristine technique. The space, while very trendy, feels however a bit cold, it has lost the coziness the original location had. You see now more business lunches and the like. I would definitely recommend it, although keep in mind that it's probably a tad more expensive than other similar options.

            1. re: rekha

              I've been there several times. I like it and have always had really good meals. It's slightly more expensive that CS or Alkimia, but not too much.
              However, people who have been to Berasategui's flagship place in Euskadi have mixed comments about it.

              1. re: SillyDisciple

                sounds good, do they have a website or do you have a review elsewhere or any photos? What were your favourite dishes?

                1. re: rekha

                  I assume they must have a website within the Berasategui group.

            2. re: SillyDisciple

              so far i've decided on sauc, rias de galicia and paco mergalo...i have 2 more nights...can you help me fill in the blanks?

              1. re: luisa dos


                Never mentioned on this board (although regularly on others) is the Restaurante Windsor on C/Corsega in the Eixample district. Ignore it's English sounding name, this is one of the city's best restaurants for "Modern Catalan" cuisine. Easily on a par with several of the places regularly touted on Chowhound and better than some others.

                It is the one "up market" place that we never miss on trips to Barca.

                1. re: Harters

                  Unfortunately I don't agree. Windsor is not considered a top restaurant, at least locally. It's rather overpriced and doesn't seem to offer the same quality of ingredients and technique that many other places in the city do.

                  1. re: SillyDisciple

                    Thanks for the comment.

                    Are there any good restaurant review websites where I can read what local folk are saying? I hate to rely on just Chowhound, particularly for Spain, as there is limited input from English-speakers. It means that, often, the same limited number of places get recommended over and over again. It's a problem we also have on the UK board.

                    I can read Castillian fine and can usually get the gist of things in Catalan.


                    1. re: Harters

                      There are a few blogs and newspaper sections that cover Barcelona.
                      Off the top of my head: 7 canibales (blog), encantadisimo (blog, although currently offline), La Vanguardia (newspaper), etc.
                      El Mundo is a great source of updated reviews for Spain in general, as is pistoynopisto (blog),

                      Two up an coming places that I've recently liked are Gresca and Artkuisine.

                      Also, a lot of the recommendations I've seen on this board are in Barcelona or close by. There's a world of excellent restaurants in a fairly close radius of Barcelona, I would say maybe 100km. Many of my favorite restaurants belong to that group: Els Casals, Can Jubany, Hispania, Can Fabes(mentioned), Can Roca, La Xifra, to name a few ...

                      1. re: SillyDisciple

                        Thanks. I'll go and have a read about some of my favourite places.

                        Such a shame that with so many millions of English speakers visiting Spain each year, few of them find their way to Chowhound. I'd never have found it myself had I not been visiting the US last year. Whilst it's hopeless for almost almost everywhere we regularly visit in Spain, it's slightly better for Barca - presumably because it's where Americans visit. Like many Brits, we visit the city regularly for "long weekends".

                        I stick by my Windsor recc, of course. Fab food.

                        1. re: Harters

                          Barcelona does get lots of English visitors, but the numbers are still small compare to Paris, London or Rome. Most stay for a few days and how many are really interested in the food. How many are repeat visitors, therefore, a few places get most of the posts. When I am in Barcelona, I don't always go to Abac, Alkmia, etc. I either cook or also go to places like Can Mano, Foxo, Cardoner, Paredeta which are simple and inexpensive but might not appeal to visitors looking for special places.
                          Rightly or wrongly, when I think of Barcelona, I think of 'modern' catalan cooking. And also the great places just outside of the city. I am hard press to find any excellent product driven traditional places within the city. Barcelona does not compare to Madrid or Seville for tapas, nor Donestia for pinxtos.

                          1. re: PBSF

                            I'd actually suggest that Barcelona is a very popular weekend destination for Brits, as it's only a couple of hours flight time for us. Certainly more so than Rome. Not as much as London of course - as it's in the same country. I can actually get to Barcelona from home (in northwest England), quicker and cheaper than I get to London. And it's a cheaper city to find a hotel in.

                            And, of course, many Brits are interested in good food - as a look at UK-focussed websites show. It's just that they don't find their way to Chowhound (even the UK/Ireland board)

                2. re: luisa dos

                  There are many other recommendations on this board on Barcelona. Besides the 3 that you've decided on, what types of restaurants are you looking for to fill the 2 nights. If you are doing lunch at Can Fabes, you might just do a light tapas/pinxtos for that evening.

                  1. re: PBSF

                    hello, in the interest of Democracy I have asked my travelling companions what their preferences would be (bah!) and it's shaping up something like this. Oh might I add that I emailed the following places and they were very prompt in sending me emails of their meus: Rias, Drolma, La Dama, Sauc.
                    Thursday lunch: El Xampanyet, Sagardi Euskal Extea tapas crawl.
                    dinner: Passadis they preferred this to Rias, what can I say?!
                    Friday lunch Alkimia
                    dinner: tapac 24, dry martini then Paco Meralgo
                    Saturday: lunch: Origins 99.95
                    dinner: sauc
                    Sunday: lunch Can Fabes
                    dinner: something light maybe at a bar, maybe back to Paco Meralgo?
                    Monday lunch: cinc sentis

                    I love the look of Drolma's menu and am waiting to hear beck from them to see if a dish substitution can be made. I also will be having the chickpea dish from Pinotxo for my breakfast, every day if I can fit it in!

                    1. re: rekha

                      Sorry, I meant to say I would like to go to Hisop but don't know if I can fit it in. Does anyone know if it is open on Saturday for lunch or on Mondays?

                      1. re: rekha

                        Skip Origins!!!! I had lunch there this week (a friend dragged me, what can I say), and it's far worse than it used to be. Reheated food, no clear flavours, overcooked rice... awful, awful, awful.

                        And insist on Rias if you can, it's really worth going.
                        Hisop is, as far as I know, open Saturday lunch.

                        I can tell you it's going to be a tough week, I'm not sure I could it that much in a week and still feel healthy.

                        If you do Paco Meralgo on a Sunday, get there early, as it get's crowded fairly quickly.

                        Close to Paco Meralgo, on carrer Valencia, is a Basque tapas place, Taktika Berri, which is I think among the top Basque places in Barcelona. I would consider as a light tapas option. They also have a proper restaurant in the back, but I've never eaten there.

                        Friday dinner: both Tapaç 24 and Paco Meralgo can get crowded fairly quickly, so either plan accordingly or skip one of them.

                        Also, not sure how big your party is, but some of this places might have a tough time accomodating you if they are crowded, or you might have to bear longer waits.

                        1. re: SillyDisciple

                          Good points. It's going to be tough not only on my waistline but my wallet! I run, and our hotel has a gym so that's how I plan on fitting all this food in. Given we are from the UK we eat pretty early compared to Catalan standards so I reckoned if we hit Tapac24 around 7pm it ought to be relatively quiet and book at Paco Meralgo for around 9.30 -10pm

                          If hisop are open for Saturday lunch I would prefer that.

                          The way I see it, one tasting menu a day with snacks for breakfast and the rest of the day ought to be doable. I don't drink that much either, so that helps.

                          1. re: rekha

                            The food at Oigins99 is nothing special but the outside seating on the pedestrian Universitat can be pleasant. I agree with the above poster that Takika Berri is excellent (especially the bacala) but the pinxto area is small and can get very very crowded in the evenings, even by 8pm. The back seating area is more geared to formal dining. It is closer to Paco Meralgo than Tapac24 which I don't not care for. It think it is overpriced and the basement space is claustaphobic.
                            If money is no object: I would definitely go for Drolma though it is probably the least experimental on your list...more toward Can Fabes. If one is serious about seafood, I would definitely choose Rias, the only place in Barcelona that is on par with the best seafood places in Madrid or Galacia. But one is looking for more of a party atmosphere then it would be Passadis.
                            I have mix feelings on Cinc Sentits...the food is very good and the service is very accommodating but I found the place to be sterile and can be very quiet for lunch.

                            1. re: PBSF

                              I used to agree with you on Origins, but it seems that lately the food has taken a turn for the worse. It's on my avoid list now.

                              I enjoy Tapaç 24 and go there every now and then, but I agree that it is a bit overpriced, and their wine selection is quite sparse. Still, it's becoming increasingly difficult to find decent tapas and plancha spots. Take Inopia for instance, that's overpriced and really nothing special at all. At least the product and execution at T24 is decent. There are a few more places that I think are still good in this category, like Casa Lucio, Quimet i Quimet, Paco Meralgo, Bar Central, Quim de la Boqueria and Pinotxo in the market, and maybe a few others, but not much more really. Or maybe I haven't found them yet...

                              1. re: SillyDisciple

                                Hey, I just read a blog that said you and 3 others had a wonderful meal at rias de galica for $700 euros - did you totally go crazy or is this standard...i was hoping to get out of there for 150 euros for 2...

                                1. re: luisa dos

                                  I don't recall the exact amount, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't 700 euro.
                                  I think we paid about 120 euro a head, but we had the works: a lot of food and several very expensive items on the menu. So yes, we did go a bit crazy.
                                  I'm fairly sure you can have a good meal for 75 euro each.

                                2. re: SillyDisciple

                                  I agreed witih your accessment of the current tapas places in Barcelona. The tapas/pinxtos thing in Barcelona is fairly recent compare to Andalucia, Madrid or Euskadi. There aren't really that many good ones, especially like you say, tapas/plancha. One can count the really good ones with one hand. And the recent profusion of large pinxto places on the Pg de Gracia are all terrible. Can throw in Taller de Tapas in that catagory. Even places like Paco Meralgo and Cal Pep are really not "tapas". And the Galacian bars down at Carrer de la Merce are not faring any better.

                                  1. re: PBSF

                                    Hi Luisa, Rias sent me an email with their menus there were 4 options from 90 euro to 120 not inc 7 %VAT. They seemed to be set meals, I have emailed them back to ask about a la carte.
                                    Ultimately there are just too many good/interesting places to choose from and the Sunday/ Monday thing shuts down options. Glad you mentioned Inopia, SD, as I was going to ask about it. Doesn't seem worth the effort to go there..

                                    1. re: rekha

                                      A note: since it seems you enjoy walking and tapas-crawling :), I would skip desserts at Rias and just go elsewhere. Concentrate your efforts on the seafood!

                                      1. re: SillyDisciple

                                        For pudding my heart well and truly belongs to Bubo. I like the fact that different stages of a meal can be had at different locations, one of the many great things about Barcelona..

                  2. re: SillyDisciple

                    hi - what do you know about a restaurant caled Magi Vinya Rose?

              2. If you liked Cinq Sentits, I think you may be even happier with Alkimia. It is a bit more "cutting edge" but not insanely experimental, and it is a bit less expensive than CS. I liked it better. Can Fabes numbers among the 5 best meals I have ever had. A very interesting mixture of traditional and modern. In Barcelona you may also want to consider La Dama. It is the exact opposite of Alkimia, Cinq Sentits, etc., serving traditional Catalan food in an elegant art nouveau setting. The food is superb. I had amazing stuffed pigs' feet, and my partner had a great lobster paella. The canneloni appetizer is a huge portion (you can get a half order) and rich but not heavy, and the langoustine salad was extremely fresh, light, and refreshing. It makes a great contrast to all the ultra-modern places.

                3 Replies
                1. re: rrems

                  Funnily enough we were having this conversation the other day. I think that I 'prefer' more a more traditional way of cooking in that I find it gives a satisfied happy tummy feeling , but like to try more modern places to test myself. However, at times this has left me coming away with a feeling that although the food was exciting and experimental I would have been happy with a simpler plate of something tasty.

                  Re Sauc any idea of opening times, and menu prices? Do they have a set/tasting menu. Have tried the website but can't seem to get it to load.
                  Has anyone been to Alkimia for lunch?

                  1. re: rekha

                    Oh and while we are at it, does anyone have any opinions on Neichel?

                    1. re: rekha

                      If that is the case I would recommend against Alkimia. I've been there for dinner, never for lunch.

                      Saüc has both a la carte and tasting menu, and price-wise it's in the same bracket as CS, Alkimia, etc, that is 45-80 depending on which way you go, wine, etc.

                      Re: Neichel, it's more traditional, and if I recall correctly, a tad more expensive, maybe at the level of Drolma, Abac, etc, but I might be wrong.

                  2. Drolma is very good. My husbands boss took us last year and it was fabulous. Very pricey though, for four of us I think the meal was over 600 euros.

                    1. Can you please tell me where Bubo is?

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: cynthonline

                        In the El Born, just off the Santa Maria del Mar, toward via Laietana. There is dessert take out store and a tapas/dessert bar next it.

                        1. re: cynthonline

                          The street is Carrer Argenteria.