Barcelona Eating Report May 1-8
We came, we saw, we ate.
Spent 8 full days in Barcelona and ate lots of good food. I will spare you the minute-by-minute play by play, and instead list some restaurants by category:
The "Stars" - Alkimia, Can Roca, Commerc 24
Alkimia had simpler food than I'd expected ("modern" but not molecular), but was a great experience. We did one lunch menu (38e) and one tasting menu (64e). Standouts included the chicken canneloni, burrato with salmon, pork fat/belly hors d'oeuvre, and lamb shoulder. Not a huge fan of the room - too stark/modern/white for my tastes. Service was great.
Can Roca - Pretty much flawless. Hors d'oeuvre's and desserts were a bit "molecular" but main dishes were more simply modern. The room is beautiful, service fantastic. We did the standard tasting menu (115e) + wine pairings (45e). Wine pairings were all mostly young Spanish wines with the exception of 2 rieslings, only 1 of which had a wee bit of age. However the pairings all worked well, and glad we did this instead of ordering just 1 bottle. Standouts included the artichoke/truffle/foie gras (could have been overkill - it was not), suckling pig, and baby squid with onion rock (added this course from the feast menu). Josep Roca showed us the wine cellar and we toured the kitchen. just a great experience.
Commerc 24 - More expensive than I'd thought (78e for the tasting menu + 6e each for bread and olive oil!) that being said, the food was excellent and interesting and the service was the best of the 3 starred restaurants. The room has the perfect atmosphere, though it was too hot. Wine was well-priced and the sommelier helped us pick a great wine.
Paco Meralgo - Awesome. Ate here our first night and was the perfect intro. Only one dish flopped - fried eggplant. All the fish dishes were great, even on a Sunday.
La Merenda del Mar - Food was fine, the experience of paella in barceloneta on a Sunday is great.
L'Olive - A big Catalan restaurant in the lower Eixample. Very good, straightforward Catalan food.
Pinxtos - taktika Berri and Euskal etxea - both are worth a stop. Loved the hot options at taktika.
Pla - This restaurant, in a very romantic loft-like space in the Gotic, is in all the guidebooks. Many of the patrons were tourists. It had no right being as good as it was, but it was really a fantastic meal.
Saltimbocca - Jordi vila's (Alkimia) pizza and pasta joint. A bit of a schlep, but tasty and cheap. The attached "secret" restaurant Dopo looked nice, but we ended up not going back for dinner as it was our last night.
Fish - why does fish taste "fishier" in barcelona? This was consistent across all the restaurants so I am pretty sure it is not a quality issues. Cod, sole, etc - fish I've eaten many times - just had a fishier taste. why?
Felafel - Had a great felafel/schwarma lunch from one of the many places in the Raval. always fun to have ethnic food in other countries as you see the influence of the local food culture. In this case, the salad in the sandwich had olives, and the bread was not pita, but catalan bread.
Money - Barcelona is not cheap. You can save some money by arranging to do some of the tasting menu places at lunch, but it's still expensive. Even though tax+tip and wine markups are lower, you still add expenses for bread and water.
Pricing - I like how restaurants price dishes. If the dish has cheap ingredients, it is cheap. You can find a 10e main course and a 40e main course in the same restaurant. I feel like this is much more less prevalent in the US.
Yes - certainly I mean a more fish-like flavor. Not at all "bad," just different.
Also I left off one place - La Tomaquera - this was very much a "No Reservations" kind of place. All locals, cash only, a few specialities (snails and grilled meats), relatively cheap, and incredibly tasty. It is a bit out of the way but near Montjuic.
Thanks for the report, Tubulus. I agree with your comment about Alkimia NOT being molecular. It's modern Catalan with a few flairs and I loved the chicken canelone in almond cream sauce too. For some reason, many people keep thinking it's molecular.
What did you have at L'Olive? I've been working on an article about traditional Catalan restaurants and I still haven't found too many that really qualify.
Glad to hear that Saltimbocca is alive and well. They gave me the business card too last summer when I was at Alkimia but I had already spent a day in Sarria so I didn't feel like going up there again.