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help choosing between gresca, hisop, embat, sauc.

curiouseater Aug 21, 2010 05:15 AM

Hello, I am looking for some advice from those of you who know Barcelona well (PBSF, Parigi et al).

I have been to Barcelona quite a few times but not for over a year. My friend and I have three full days and we intend to go back to Pinotxo for chickpeas, Tapa24 for the bikini24, Bar mut for the tuna salad. I quite like Cinc Sentits and Paco Meralgo so they are on our list. I have been to Gaig, Commerc 24, Alkimia and hisop before but I can't decide if we should go back to hisop with one other meal at Gresca or give hisop a miss and go to Gresca and Embat instead. I know people like Sauc but can't find much on it, any idea what the current menu is like, and if anyone has the time and the inclination could they please look at Embat's menu and give a rough translation as my Catalan is unfortunately non-existent!

Thanks for any updates, opinions.

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  1. PBSF RE: curiouseater Aug 22, 2010 12:46 AM

    I've frequently posted that Sauc is probably my favorite modern Catalan restaurant in Barcelona. I've eaten there half a dozen times over the past four years. The chef/owner Xavier Franco was the chef de cuisine for many years under Xavier Pellicer at Abac (Pellicer has since left Abac). There is a similarity to their cooking style, modern Catalan with minimum use of molecular techniques, no "de-constructionism", though sous-vide, some foam, gel are employed (no theatrics). The food is similar to Cinc Sentits while I find Sauc's earthier, more complex with deeper flavor. The service is not as polish as Cinc Sentits or Gaig but it has a welcoming informality. The whole ambience is more laid back. The menu usually has 6 or 7 first courses, five seafood and the same number meat/poultry. A cheese course plus 5 or 6 desserts. There are two tasting menus that depends on the number of plates, pulled from the a la carte.
    My most recent dinner (2 appetivos, 5 plates, cheese, 2 desserts):
    Smoke eel tartare with bits of green apple/Oyster in black paper jelly with lemon zest
    Salad of pig’s feet, onions and jamon de bellota
    Crispy pieces of oxen neck meat, calamari and artichokes, with meat juice
    Tuna belly with roasted peppers, macadamia and sprouts
    Turbot, asparagus with shellfish sauce flavored with rosemary
    Squab au sangre with glazed salsifis
    Three cheeses with quince paste and sesame crackers
    Hibiscus gelee, pear sorbet and banana yogurt
    Limon spongecake, marscarpone cream and strawberries
    After consulting a copy of my menus, I think the above is somewhat accurate since being old-fashioned, I don't take photos or notes when I am dining. And after too many years of dining out, things do get jumbled a bit.
    I managed to take a look at Embat's online dinner menu. My Catalan is not good but I know enough food terms to come up with a “loose” translation; hope it is accurate enough to be of some use:
    Cold pasta with onion confit, beans, Parmesan and pancetta
    Salad of mackerel and potato
    Coca (flatbread) with vegetables, brie and pancetta
    Leeks and eggplant with basil
    Duck cannelloni with truffle
    Scallop with smoked eel, potato and lemon
    Rice with pork ribs, sausage and peas
    Salt cod with breadcrumb and poached egg
    Cheek of cod with meat from the pork neck, parsnip puree and cubes of root vegetables
    Hamburger (Wagyu?), sauté and tempura vegetables with teriyaki sauce
    Beef cheek with green apple ice and vegetable flowers
    Duck breast with cracked wheat, raisins and dice of raw vegetables
    Lamb shoulder with dried beans and smoked cheese
    Fruit cocktail with lemon, ginger and passion fruit
    White chocolate with vine-ripe peach and granola
    Chocolate crumb with vanilla foam
    Cake with yogurt and apricot tea
    I like Embat because it is still an evolving restaurant: simple non designer décor, good informal service, creative cooking and relatively inexpensive.
    I’ve only been to Gresca only once in 2009 and found it very similar to Hisop, good but overall not as consistent as Cinc Sentits or Gaig.

    19 Replies
    1. re: PBSF
      curiouseater RE: PBSF Aug 22, 2010 09:02 AM

      Wow, thank you so much for taking the time to have a look at Embat's menu and for posting a rough translation. That really was very kind of you.
      Do you know if they do a tasting menu option? There will only be two of us and I prefer tasting menus as they allow one to sample the menu more widely. I quite like the sound of a few of their dishes. After eating at some really high end places (Can Fabes, RHR, Per Se) I find I tend to prefer smaller more laid back places that focus on the food.
      Also, just to push your kindness even further do you know what Sauc's menu is like at the moment? I think that if you like it then it might be worth a shot.
      I tend to go back to places I know, but feel that ought to try new places, having been to Hisop twice (and having liked it) I wonder if I ought to try Gresca. The only thing that puts me off it that you seem to have to order the tasting menu in advance, and I always like to know what I am getting beforehand in case I want to make substitutions..

      1. re: curiouseater
        PBSF RE: curiouseater Aug 22, 2010 02:50 PM

        Embat does offer a tasting menu, the last item listed on their online dinner menu. Dinner service only on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
        Unfortunately, I have not had a chance to eat at Sauc this year, therefore, I don't have a more current menu. Their menu changes often but it has enough choices to give it variety. I love the food at Can Fabes; Sauc's cooking is more in that style rather than the molecular El Bulli.

        1. re: curiouseater
          estufarian RE: curiouseater Aug 23, 2010 09:03 AM

          Gresca's tasting menu is 'theoretically' prepared daily (depending on 'what is fresh that day') - so you can't get a list in advance. Having said that, many of the dishes seem to hang around a few weeks at least (Aleta had similar dishes to us about 6 weeks later). Substitutions are 'possible but restricted' as the portion sizes are smaller on the tasting menu - and this is a very small place. Of course allergies are always handled (but you could mention those while reserving).
          Another strategy is to reserve for an 'early seating' - then if you ask about the tasting menu, they may be able to adjust based on your timing. We actually received the tasting menu without having pre-ordered, but we were the first people to arrive.

          1. re: estufarian
            curiouseater RE: estufarian Aug 23, 2010 09:11 AM

            Thanks for that suggestion, might give it a go. I have emailed Cinc Sentits, Hisop and Sauc about their menus and will see what's on for when we go, that usually makes the decision for us. Ideally we should stay 3 days longer, then we could fit more in! Will let you know how I get on.

          2. re: curiouseater
            Aleta RE: curiouseater Aug 23, 2010 06:54 PM

            While on the subject of Gresca, here's an excerpt of my trip report on Gresca. You don't have to get the tasting menu. You can get the 4-dish menu. Both were available for 50 Euros back in late June.

            Pictures from flickr attached:

            <<GRESCA for dinner. We ordered the 50 Euro tasting menu and enjoyed everything except the 2 fish offerings. Perhaps I just don’t like monkfish. The technique and creativity at Gresca was impressive. Imagine a coconut dessert that looks like half of a cracked-open mini coconut shell. No big deal, except that the mini coconut shell is not really a shell. It's completely edible and gorgeous! Or the "scroll" of raspberry sherbet served on a black slab of stone. Or the transparent "blanket" of iberico ham fat, keeping a bed of mushrooms cozy and warm. Or their signature dish of egg white souffle with a runny egg yolk centre. Son hates runny egg yolks so I was expecting him to send the dish my way but the whole thing together was so delicious that he finished it with bread and declared it “SOPtastic". We both loved the pigeon dish. Most likely squab (which is young pigeon), it appeared raw in texture but NOT in taste. I thought it might have been prepared sous-vide (Estufarian concurs). Molecular gastronomy that is so wild that you don't have a clue what's going on - that's NOT what you'll get at Gresca. Here stuff makes sense, looks fun and whimsical, tastes great (mostly). We noticed people ordering either the tasting menu or a menu of 4 dishes (larger portions) – either were the same price. On our next trip to Barcelona (!), we plan to order the 4 dish menu.>>

            1. re: Aleta
              curiouseater RE: Aleta Aug 24, 2010 08:01 AM

              Dear Aleta thanks for the link to your photos. I really enjoyed reading your trip report and am very impressed your son has such an adventurous palate. It gives me hope that my son (who is only one at the mo) will be able to enjoy foodie trips in the future.

              1. re: curiouseater
                Aleta RE: curiouseater Aug 24, 2010 01:38 PM

                Curiouseater, thanks for your kind words. I am jealous that you live so much closer to Spain (I hear there are often great airfare deals from the UK) ! I had a look at your blog and I'm going to have to sign up as a regular reader. In particular, I thought that your meal at ALKIMIA 2008 vs my 2010 was an interesting comparison. There were some "old favourites" but most were different (and looked pretty delicious). I was also excited to see the pics of St. John in London - one day I'll get there! BTW, my son draws the line at blood pudding while I salivate over it and its cousins: morcilla sausage and boudin noir.

                As long as you keep giving your son little tidbits of interesting fare (and avoid too much low-quality candy), he'll eventually learn to appreciate the things you love.

                Have a great visit to Barcelona and please tell us where you went and what you enjoyed.

                1. re: Aleta
                  curiouseater RE: Aleta Aug 25, 2010 11:31 AM

                  Hello, that's very kind of you to read the blog. As you can see since Noah has come along material and the inclination to blog has been scarce. However, we are going to 21212 in Edinburgh tomorrow and I am there again on Saturday to try the dimsum at Saigon Saigon and on Sunday we will be in Stravaigin in Glasgow so all is not lost.
                  I have heard back from Hisop and Cinc Sentits, they are both updating their menus and will get back to me. Hopefully Sauc will get back once August is over.

                  1. re: curiouseater
                    curiouseater RE: curiouseater Sep 1, 2010 06:30 AM

                    Just an update. All three restaurants have gotten back to me and as before everyone is so nice. Oriol at Hisop is particularly accommodating saying that if there were dishes off the old menu that we wanted to try then they would try to provide them. At the mo they are still updating the menus so the choice of where to eat will be driven by that. Am very excited!

                    1. re: curiouseater
                      Luna2308 RE: curiouseater Sep 1, 2010 06:09 PM

                      I can only second your experience with the restaurants being very nice. I am currently planning my trip for 6 days in October and will finally get to try some of the restaurants that I have read so much about on the boards here...can't wait!!!
                      I was in Barcelona last year with my mum, she's not as crazy about food as I am, so I didn't get to try the restaurants that interested me most. We did go twice to La Boqueria though, Paco Meralgo, Euskal Etxea and Taller de Tapas (wasn't too bad, just a bit generic as stated often here on Chow).
                      I also emailed several restaurants, Cinc Sentits, Alkimia, Hisop and Saüc and all got back to me within 12 hours (very impressive!).
                      Both Saüc and Hisop sent me their current menu options, so if anyone is interested, I can forward them.
                      I could not find any email address or current menu info on Gresca or Coure, so if somebody has info on those two I'd be grateful.
                      It is really hard to decide, as there are so many different opinions on all those restaurants out there and I won't be able to try them all (time and money constraints won't allow it...). Will definitely go to Paco Meralgo again, La Boqueria and Quimet i Quimet...
                      curiouseater, am looking forward to your report, I'll make sure to post mine once I get back...

                      1. re: Luna2308
                        blargh RE: Luna2308 Sep 2, 2010 01:10 PM

                        Out of curiosity, is it usually necessary to make reservations at these more casual bistronomic places (Gresca, Embat, Hisop, etc)? I'll be visiting in early November.


                        1. re: blargh
                          estufarian RE: blargh Sep 2, 2010 01:25 PM


                          1. re: blargh
                            Aleta RE: blargh Sep 2, 2010 04:18 PM

                            Absolutely. I saw a couple arrive at Gresca without a reservation. The restaurant was pretty empty at the time and the waitress had to very politely turn them down. They were indignant and wouldn't leave. The waitress had to re-explain that every table was spoken for, although they were vacant at that moment. Sure enough, within 15-30 minutes of the couple's departure, diners with reservations showed up and soon Gresca was completely full. Don't forget that some of these casual bistronomic places are tiny (both in square footage and food budgets) by our North American standards. They buy and prepare fresh food daily based on their anticipated reservations so they really need their customers to reserve in advance and honor that reservation. In the case of Gresca, they actually called me on the day of our dinner to double-check that we were coming!!

                            If you can't commit to a reservation in advance, you can always call and see if they have cancellations.

                          2. re: Luna2308
                            sockster RE: Luna2308 Sep 6, 2010 06:29 AM

                            There's one major restaurant that you haven't mentioned....the fabulous, very underated Gelonoch. This man is making some of the most incredible food in Barcelona today. It wil blow you away. Reservations: restaurant.gelonoch@gmail.com

                            1. re: sockster
                              curiouseater RE: sockster Sep 6, 2010 11:47 AM

                              Hi Luna 2308, the menu that Hisop sent you, is it the one that is on their website or the new one? If it is the new one could you email me it please? Thank you. Am heading off next Wednesday so need to make some decisions!

                              1. re: curiouseater
                                Luna2308 RE: curiouseater Sep 6, 2010 09:15 PM

                                Hi curiouseater,
                                I'd be happy to send you the menu and tasting menu that Hisop sent me. It seems, quite a few of the dishes are the same as on the website, but not all of them. They did mention though, that they will be making a few changes according to seasonal products, but maybe not until next week...I'm headed to Barcelona from October 13th through 19th, so would definitely love to hear about your experiences before that.
                                Embat and Saüc also sent me menus, all in the last few days, if you want, I can email those, too.
                                I am struggling with the decision which ones to visit, as they all sound great, but me and my friend do have constraints, both time and money-wise. So right now I am leaning towards 2 dinners, Hisop and Cinc Sentits and maybe 1-2 lunches (Saüc?, Gresca?, Embat?, Alkimia?). What's your take on the ones you've been to already?!

                                1. re: Luna2308
                                  curiouseater RE: Luna2308 Sep 7, 2010 06:42 AM

                                  I really liked cinc sentits is quite reliable, I've eaten there around six times over the years and enjoyed all the meals, they may not be as adventurous as the others but certainly tasty. I like hisop too it's maybe a bit more adventurous than cs. I've only eaten at alkimia once there were some dishes I loved and some that although I could appreciate the concept I didn't find that tasty. Wasn't too fussed by gaig or commerc 24. I think we are looking at tasting menu at cs and hisop and a la carte at either sauc or embat it's very hard to choose. Paco meralgo for dinner definitely. Please email me the menus you have!

                                  1. re: curiouseater
                                    Luna2308 RE: curiouseater Sep 7, 2010 08:57 AM

                                    Hi curiouseater,
                                    Will send you the menus, just need your email address...

                                    1. re: Luna2308
                                      curiouseater RE: Luna2308 Sep 7, 2010 12:11 PM

                                      sorry curiouseater@live.com

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