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Jul 9, 2010 01:38 PM

Barcelona dining report

Hi Chowhounders,

My husband and I are just back from 4 days in Barcelona. I used chowhound extensively in planning our meals so I feel duty-bound to report back on what we experienced (which was overwhelmingly delicious):

1. Bar Pinotxo at the Boqueria - snagged 2 seats at the counter at about 11am on Saturday morning, let them bring us cava, chick peas, mussels, cod salad, an iberico ham sandwich and a sugar-glazed croissant. it was very good, incredibly fresh and flavorful but nothing really knocked my socks off. i was disappointed they didn't have any egg dishes available since i had heard good things about that. oh well, it filled us up and got us off to the right foot in barcelona, and for a total of 19 euros it was a fabulous deal.

2. Cafe Viena - the iberico ham sandwich written up by one nytimes reporter as the "best sandwich in the world" -- i have to concur with that. it was perfectly toasted and so flavorful, i almost couldn't believe that much intense flavor was coming out of something so simple. highly recommended, and a great location right for when hunger strikes on la rambla.

3. Cinc Sentits - believe the hype. it was amazing, and i thought it was a bargain at 69 euros for the tasting menu. we did the sensacions 8-course tasting and loved every single bite, from the maple syrup shot through the foie gras, suckling pig and the last sip of wine. this was a tough decision for us since we were in barca for a saturday, sunday and monday night and many of the best restaurants are closed sundays and mondays, so we had to choose saturday night very carefully. i'm confident we made the right call (we called for a reservation exactly 2 weeks in advance, about 2 hours after they opened, and they only had one table left at 10:15pm, so we grabbed it-- make sure to do the same if you want to eat here!)

4. La Mar Salada - by far the nicest and least touristy of the tourist-trap places near the water in barceloneta. we had fried calamari, seafood paella and a bottle of wine with a total bill of about 50 euros. the only negative was the pan con tomate-- it the worst we had in barcelona.

5. Paco Meralgo - we went here for tapas since it was one of the few places open on Sunday night, and it was delicious. I feel like i can't really do it justice because we were so full from 2 days of eating that we really didn't order much, but i remember thinking "if only i was hungrier, i'd be ordering everyting on this menu" - recommended but go with at least a half-empty stomach! the pan con tomate was the best we had on the trip.

6. Jamonisimo - this was a little bit of a disappointment. i emailed them in advance to request a tasting, and they emailed back to let me know their opening hours. since this seems to be such a point of confusion on the boards, i'll give their exact words here. they said: "Sunday the restaurant is closed. It’s open from 8am to 10pm from monday to friday. On saturday from 8am to 3pm, and 5pm to 9.30pm. Please, let me know at what time you will come."

however, what we realized when we got there, is this is not the shop so many other chowhounders have written about-- this is really more like a restaurant, with a small area in the front selling packaged hams etc, with of course the ham legs hanging in the windows, and about 6 tables in the back with waiters etc. the shop is at provenza 85, the restaurant they directed us to was at muntaner 238, so make sure you know which one you are going to.

i was expecting more of a back-room special attention type place, rather than a proper restaurant with menus. but nevertheless, we ordered a 27 euro plate of ham plus some delicious croquettes and glasses of cava, and overall we enjoyed it.

7. Gresca - MAJOR disappointment. i was shocked at how mediocre it was after reading generally positive reviews on these boards. maybe we were spoiled after cinc sentits, paco meralgo etc, but we were pretty unhappy with this place. the food was adequate, service was nice, and the wine the waitress helped us choose was actually really good (a local rioja) but overall this should not be on your agenda if you are only in barcelona for a few days. i so wish we had chosen to try tapac 24 instead, which we didn't have time to do.

8. Cal Pep - this was a fun experience with tasty food. we got there at about 1:15pm (thinking they opened at 1:30) but in fact i guess they open at 1p, so the bar was already full with a queue nearly out the door. we ended up waiting almost an hour but didn't mind because it was a fun atmosphere, we made friends with the other people in line. there are no menus so when we finally sat down, they just brought us plates of peppers, calamari, monkfish etc until we said stop. the food was very fresh and tasty but overall it's the atmosphere that makes this place so memorable. also we felt it was a bit pricey (since there are no menus, there are also no prices). our lunch bill with a bottle of (8 euro) wine came to 86 euros. but, it was a fun afternoon and i'd recommend it.

an overall note that i was surprised to discover-- smoking is allowed in bars in barcelona, and also in many restaurants. luckily we never had a problem with smoke at dinner (nothing ruins food faster for me than cigarette smoke) but one bar where we were watching the world cup got so smoky we left at halftime and found another one. as a new yorker living in london i've gotten used to smoke-free eating and drinking, and it was just something about barcelona i wasn't expecting.

i hope this is helpful because everyone else's reports were so helpful to me! enjoy!

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  1. Thanks for the reviews!

    I have reservations at Paco Meralgo and Gresca. Aleta from this board just went to Gresca and was floored how good it was.

    Someone just recently panned Paco Meralgo so I guess it is the luck of the draw.

    Did you chose the degustation at Gresca? What was mediocre about it.

    Thanks again!

    1 Reply
    1. re: SmokinActuary

      hey there,
      we did choose the degustation at gresca. the early courses, which were essentially the appetizer-types, were very good, and we thought we were in for a delicious experience. but when we got to the main courses (first monkfish, then sweetbreads, then pigeon) none was very good at all. the monkfish was very plain, the sweetbreads were too heavy and salty (though i am not a fan of sweetbreads anyway) and the pigeon tasted very pigeony, almost like street meat.
      to me, pigeon (when it's good) tastes more like interesting duck. but this pigeon just actually tasted like i would think a pigeon tastes. it was very rare, perhaps if it was cooked a bit more it would have been better. (we did not order it rare, that's just how it came).
      it's worth reiterating that the wine was excellent- we chose the 2004 sierra cantabria cuvee especial rioja, and at only 18 euros it was an excellent value and i would recommend it highly. the desserts were also interesting and pretty good, but it was only 3 days ago and i already forgot what they were.
      i don't want to get too down on it since the service was friendly and the prices were good, and if i lived in barcelona i wouldn't mind eating here once in awhile. i just dont think it's special enough to deserve a place on anyone's list for a short trip to barcelona.

    2. Hi
      Since you've just been to Cinc Sentits I was hoping you might be able to help answer a question about the menu options. Is the only option to order one of the set tasting menu or can you also order ala carte?

      I eat fish and seafood, but no other meat, so run into issues with set menus, but am otherwise making myself hungry now just thinking about wanting to try the restaurant.


      2 Replies
      1. re: ashleeg

        i believe you have to choose one of the two tasting menus... but they were very gracious and flexible with my husband's nut allergy, i'm sure they'd do the same if you don't eat meat. i'd just recommend telling them that when you make your reservation, as we did with the nut allergy. they even remembered the nut allergy when we arrived, and informed us my husband's dishes would be altered slightly to avoid any problems. enjoy!

        1. re: ashleeg

          They offer 2 tasting menus and a 4 course prix fixe at lunch and dinner. When I made my reservation, they asked about dietary restrictions -- I'm sure you can work something out.