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May 26, 2008 06:34 AM

Eating Barcelona

My wife and I recently returned from a truly great 9-day trip to Barcelona - we consider it one of our best overall dining experiences anywhere.

Best Discovery:
Goliard - Carrer de Progrés 6, Gràcia - a small, quaint & rustic restaurant on a narrow side street, off-the-beaten path. Catalonian menu and incredible prices - the lunch prix fixe was 11.12e/person. Highlights were the Boles de Picolat (Catalan meatballs) and their version of Fideua which was made with fish and pork.

Most pleasant Surprises:
1. The pintxo at the cafe in the foyer of the Palau de la Musica Catalana - really wonderful - crabmeat salad, silver backed anchovies, salmon, salt cod and cava - a wonderful pre-concert snack.
2. The consistent quality of the food, the inviting atmosphere and the cheerful service at Taller de Tapas on C/Argenteria, 51. We went here twice we were so surprised ;-) Great patatas bravas, silver-backed anchovies, salt cod fritters and their profiterole with chocolate sauce were heavenly!

Disappointing and Touristy
1. El Quim in La Boqueria - I suppose too much attention over the years has resulted in mediocrity. Way overpriced and way overcooked - and it was not busy, so their was no reason for the poor food performance. The prawns were overdone and too chewy and the patatas bravas were all mayo and no spices. In fact, I thought the whole Boqueria experience was over-hyped.
2. Senyor Parellada - run-of the mill-food and The.Worst. Service.Ever.Anywhere. The 5 language menu should have alerted us!

Far Exceeded Expectations: (In no particular order)
1. Santa Maria - wonderful, intimate, rustic bistro feel restaurant at C/Comerç, 17. Inventive, fresh, delicious menu. We had the tasting menu along with a bottle of white and the bill was about 90e for the 2 of us. Highlights were salmon sushi with goat cheese centered in the rice ball, quail with sweet potato puree, foie gras with a cherry glaze, sardines with a yoghurt curry, frog legs, steak tartare, a raspberry shortcake parfait with a zotz-like fizz candy that popped in your mouth, and chocolate cake with creme and espresso.
2. Taktika Berri - Valencia, 169 - Another restaurant with a great bistro vibe - we sat in the back dining room, away from the bar area. No printed menu - all made daily and server tells you what's what. Highlights were the veal cheeks, the clams with fried garlic and onions and the Hake with garlic and tomato salsa. Chocolate cream layer cake and cava! About 50e for 2.
3. Cinc Sentits - Aribau, 58 - lived up to all the rave reviews. We has lunch here - the 29e per person prix fixe 3 course, which came with 2 pre-appetizer amuses and 1 pre-dessert amuse. Everything with perfect and service was exceptional. Highlights were the diver scallops and the suckling pig and the incredible artisanal cheese plate. Along with several glasses of cava, bill was about 70e.
4. Hisop - we had dinner here. A minimalist heaven design-wise, with truly great, inventive menu. This was our best meal among the best restaurants. Highlights were a great mackerel dish with both a mushroom-infused sauce and a chocolate sauce, grilled cuttlefish with lime dressing, fois gras with whole cherries and liquorice, grilled scallops with sweet green onions and Jerusalem artichokes, and the most inventive dessert of the trip - lime ice cream with a pistachio souffle covered in a sweetened arugula sauce! Bill was 100e.
5. Alkimia - Industria 79 - we spent 3 wonderful hours here for lunch and also spent the most money here (but well worth it!) One of the amuses was a liquid take off of pan amb tomaquet - the natural juice of the tomato covered with bread crumbs. Another amuse was a foie gras gelatin cover with rice crispies and edible flowers. A appetizer of small salmon cubes along with white asparagus and edible root stock and flowers was delicious For mains, a traditional Catalan stew of red snapper and creamed potatoes, and a wonderfully spiced steak tartare with small pillowed fried potatoes. For dessert, a chocolate/hazelnut brownie with rice yoghurt and espresso ice cam. Bill was 110e.

We had a great time and loved Barcelona and will miss the fabulous dining opportunities.

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  1. We will be there in early July but only for 2 dinners - we had one of our favorite meals ever at Cal Pep two years ago - combination of terrifically fresh food and fun atmosphere with friends made it great. We probably will go back for one dinner. Do you recommend a do not miss from your list above?

    1. Hello, you have been to a couple of places on my list- hisop and alkimia. May I ask how you made your reservations? Did you call or email? Also were the menus in English, Catalan or Spanish? We want to go to Alkimia for lunch on a Friday, and you sound as if you had a greta time. I assume then, that you didn't feel you experience was any less than a dinner there?

      Thanks for your help!

      1 Reply
      1. re: rekha

        Hi - We walked into Hisop on a Monday night without reservations and were seated right away (we were headed for Coure which is across the street but it was closed). We booked Alkimia through our apartment rental agency - they booked it for a 2:30PM lunch about 2 weeks in advance of our arrival. If I remember correctly all menus were in all 3 languages and all servers were multi-lingual. The same menu is available for both lunch and dinner at both restaurants.