Barcelona Trip Report - May 8-11
We were in Barcelona from May 8-11. Here are reports from all of the restaurants we went to.
This was a really fun restaurant. Although there were quite a few foreigners, there were also lots of locals so it felt like a nice neighborhood atmosphere. The restaurant is very nicely decorated; modern, but still very cozy with some communal tables. Our waiter was fun and friendly.
What we ate (I'm sure there might be one or two dishes I forgot, but I could remember most of them):
Pan Amb Tomaquet - Excellent. The bread was just slightly charred on the edges, and the tomato had great flavor. It was a great way to start off our Barcelona dining experience.
Patatas Bravas - These were quite good, although the sauce was very oily which made it not so pleasant. I probably wouldn't get these again.
Bikini Sandwich - As far as I can remember, it was good. I only had one bite or so, as my brother ate most of it.
Fried Eggplant - It was good, but could have used some sort of dipping sauce, as it was just breaded and fried.
Fried Meat (I can't remember what it was, something with "kid" in in, but it wasn't goat. I think it might have been lamb) - Not very good. Quite fatty.
Gazpacho - I think it was good, but I'm not a huge gazpacho fan so I didn't like it too much. I can't blame it on the dish though, just my personal tastes.
Homemade Fried Dumpling - Great, similar to an empanada. I can't remember what the filling was.
Cod Fritters - Quite good, just a bit fishy tasting.
Fried Fish, I think they were sardines - Very nice.
Crema Catalana - Fantastic. Nice sugary crust on top, and a very nice custard that was surprisingly light. I was expecting it to be very rich, but I'm glad it wasn't.
Some dessert they called "Sponge Cork with Rum" - It was very good. Some sort of light sponge cake that was almost like bread pudding with a vanilla sauce.
Cream Roll - Also very good. A light pastry filled with custard.
Overall, we thought Paco Meralgo was a very nice first meal. I would say the food certainly wasn't the best we ate on the trip, but it was very good and the atmosphere was fantastic.
BREAKFAST - GRANJA LA PALLARESA
After the Boqueria we were feeling very hungry, so we went to La Pallaresa to try out the churros and chocolate. We tried the Suizo Chocolate with some churros and melindros. La Pallaresa isn't the prettiest place; it kind of reminded me of an American doughnut shop. The churros were OK, but they were definitely not fresh. At least they weren't greasy, but I was hoping for some steaming hot ones to start the day with. It would be nicer if they would make them to order. The melindros were very good, they reminded me of ladyfingers. The chocolate was good, but far too strong for me. However, I do realize that this is how it is supposed to taste. The whipped cream helped a lot. One other thing we ordered was flan, which was quite good, but could have been a bit sweeter. We were definitely a little bit disappointed with La Pallaresa, but I would imagine if you get the churros fresh they taste great, and the experience wasn't terrible to be sure.
DINNER - ALKIMIA
Since I had never been to a restaurant with a tasting menu, let alone one with a Michelin star, I was really excited to go to Alkimia. The restaurant is very cozy, but it doesn't feel too cramped. It was decorated with a great modern feel, and it looked very appealing from the street. The service was mostly great; one waiter was a bit odd, but not unfriendly at all, and I would have liked to hear a little more about each dish, as we were only given a very short explanation. As I had never been to a restaurant of Alkimia's quality, I had so much fun just seeing all of the little details like getting new silverware for each course, the beautiful plates and bowls, and the waiter dusting the crumbs off the table etc.
We went with the traditional menu, which had the following dishes and extras:
Bread - Alkimia's bread was excellent. They had both plain bread, and bread with fruit and nuts. You also got some really long thin breadsticks.
Tomato Water - This was very interesting. Sort of clarified tomato juice served in a shot glass with mini breadcrumbs and a piece of thinly sliced sausage on top. We all liked this very well, and it was a refreshing way to start.
Soup - This was some sort of asian-type soup, with some interesting noodles that had a crunchy center and jelly-like exterior. I'm not sure what they were exactly. It was also served with a small piece of pig's ear, which tasted much better than I thought it would, since it wasn't too rubbery. The soup was had a bit too much soy sauce flavor for me, but it was pretty good.
Tomato Tatin with Anchovy - A piece of bread with a puree of something spread on it (can't remember what it was), with a lovely roasted tomato on top and an anchovy. I liked this a lot.
Chicken Canneloni with Almond Bechamel and salad - Excellent. The chicken had great flavor, and the almond bechamel was cleverly covering the outside of the canneloni. The salad was fantastic, with some small greens served with radish and cucumber. There was also some small jelly cube with a fantastic flavor in the salad, I think the flavor might have been apple. The only problem was that one of our group got a small bone in his chicken. I have read other reviews that have had the same problem, so I don't know why it would happen so frequently. It wasn't a big deal though.
Rice with Nyoras, Saffron and Langoustine - A sort of risotto. Quite good, but a little too rich. It needed a little something to cut through the richness of the rice, maybe some lemon or something like that. The langoustine was nice.
Red Mullet with Artichoke - Very good, the artichoke was a little bitter. Again, I would have liked a little bit of acidity to brighten up the dish, but it was overall very good.
Young Lamb Shoulder with Morels and Asparagus - I'm not a big lamb fan, so I didn't love this, but my dad likes lamb and said it was the best that he has ever had. It had a great crispy crust, and a very cool rosemary foam.
Strawberries with Iced Vinegar and Fresh Cheese Ganache - Fantastic. The strawberries and the iced vinegar (almost like a granita) went perfectly together, and the cheese ganache was similar to a light custard sauce with a slight tartness.
Egg Cream Caramel with Ginger and Lemon Sorbet and Chocolate - Again, an excellent dessert. The sorbet was so refreshing, and went well with the flan-like dessert. The chocolate was very strong, but mixed with the sorbet it was fine. It was served on a very cool slate platter.
Petit Fours - Four different little desserts served on a beautiful metal serving platter, which I think must have been custom made. The first one was a little mini tart with chocolate and lemon, which tasted very nice. Second was a little chocolate with some sort of white filling, which I can't remember: also great. Third was a melon soup, with little pieces of melon, mint, and a jelly cube similar to the one in the salad with the canneloni. It was very refreshing. Finally, last was a white chocolate and passion fruit lollipop. This was simply amazing. When you bit into it, the passion fruit exploded into your mouth, and was delicious.
Overall, the meal was very good. Some of the dishes were a bit too rich for me, but they were still great. The desserts were outstanding, and the whole experience was just so much fun.
LUNCH - KAIKU
I wasn't quite sure what to expect from Kaiku, but I certainly wasn't disappointed. The restaurant, although not fancy, is still very nice-looking, with cool wood-bordered menus and a beautiful outdoor terrace. I would highly recommend trying to sit outside if you can, it really is fun (although the inside looks fine too). When we first came around 1:15, it wasn't too busy, but once we started to leave around 2:30/3:00, it definitely got full, so I would definitely make reservations.
Kaiku had some fantastic bread; all restaurants we went to in Barcelona had great bread, it really makes the meal more fun to have something to eat between eating. :-D
Lentil salad with "el picadet de Kaiku (what would this be?), prunes, pineapple and mint vinaigrette - This was outstanding. Very fresh tasting, with some nice subtle sweetness.
Green salad with orange vinaigrette - Also very good.
Asparagus and Spring Onion Tempura with Roaster Pepper Sauce - This was one of my favorite dishes of the trip (although there were probably about 10 favorites :-P). Beautifully fried, not at all greasy, and with a flavorful red pepper sauce drizzled on top.
Filet of Sorell Al Forn with Chickpea Hummus and Vegetables - Excellent flavor, although the fish had its bones still in it, which made it a bit tough to eat.
Vegetable Soup - Very good, just a little bit cold. Not sure if this was intentional or not.
Grilled Grissot with Zucchini and Asparagus - This had very nice crispy skin, and the vegetables were in very thin strips and I think fried, which made them nice and crispy as well. Also a great dish.
Panna Cotta with Blueberry Sauce - Refreshing, and with a nice flavor. Could have been a touch sweeter.
Apple Tarte Tatin with Vanilla Sauce - Excellent. The apples were nice and tender, and the vanilla sauce was a great complement.
I don't remember the name of the last dessert, but it was a flaky pastry with layers of crema catalana and pistachios inside with a chocolate sauce on the side. This was great as well. All of the desserts were wonderful, just like every other restaurant we went to in Barcelona.
Kaiku greatly surpassed my expectations. The atmosphere was so nice outside with the sun shining and the palm trees above, and the food was so fresh tasting. I expected to get great fish which was true, but what I didn't expect was the quality of the other dishes like the salads, the tempura, the desserts and of course the bread. I would highly recommend Kaiku.
DINNER - TICKETS
Our last dinner in Barcelona was at one of the hottest new restaurants, the Adria brothers' new tapas bar, Tickets. When I first heard about Tickets, I went to their website to just see if they had any reservations for the one day we had available. I didn't really expect to get one, but I had the great luck after trying for a few days that there was a 10:30 reservation available for May 10th. I immediately booked it. At the time, I actually didn't realize how popular the restaurant was, but in the last few months it's been in tons of different magazines, so I was quite excited. I was definitely NOT let down.
We got there, and saw the infamous guy in a top hat and tails waiting at the front with the velvet rope. Some people have complained about the "circus" atmosphere at Tickets, but it was actually not bad at all in my opinion. The top hat guy was really the only "overkill" for me. Everything else was very tastefully decorated, with really cool chairs, tables, and other things. It's really tough to describe well, so I'll post a link to my Flickr page where I have pictures. Our waiter Xavi was very nice, which made the experience all the more fun. One thing I loved about Tickets was that everyone working there seemed to be having fun themselves, from the waiters to the chefs. It was fun to watch the chefs prepare the food in the open kitchens; we were right by the dessert area, my favorite! We saw Albert Adria hanging around chatting to the employees and customers. Each dish was served on a fun serving vessel, from silver spoons to a blue and white swirl platter. It was just so exciting to see what the next dish would look like. The menu was an interesting fold out piece of paper, which was very easy to understand. You also got an awesome pair of silver pincers that you could use to eat; I had never seen anything like them, and it turns out they were custom made and you could even buy them for 12 Euros if you wanted. A picture is on Flickr.
Now, for the food! We got tons of different little plates, which was great because you could try many different things without worrying about whether you could finish them.
Mini-Airbags stuffed with manchego cheese and Iberian bacon - This was delicious. A little cream puff-like pastry (although a little crunchier) filled with a manchego cheese mixture.
The Olives by Tickets - The famous olive juice spheres. Although not my favorite food ever, it was so much fun to eat, and was unlike anything I had eaten before. The way it explodes in the mouth is fascinating.
Variety of small fried fish with Galician seaweed powder - These were served in a little paper cone on a cool wooden platter. I don't remember what different kinds of seafood they were, but they were extremely crispy, so they pretty much tasted like chips. I probably wouldn't order them again, but they certainly weren't bad.
Pernil Gran Reserva, or Gran Reserva Iberian Ham - Now, normally I'm not at all a ham fan. However, this ham was FANTASTIC. Like they say, the fat just melts away, and the flavor is superb. It was served by itself, and you ate it with the fun pincers. Our waiter was funny, when we ordered the ham he said he wished he could eat it with us since it was so good. :-P
Crystal bread with spread tomato - Basically a fancy name for pan amb tomaquet. While it wasn't unusual like the other dishes, it still tasted fantastic.
Galician Pie - A pastry pocket filled with anchovies and vegetables (bell pepper was one). This wasn't too great. It was a bit oily and didn't have any exciting flavors.
Mollete with Dewlap - An English-muffin type bread with dewlap, which is basically a flap of skin that hangs beneath the jaw, in this case from pork. I didn't really think I would like this, but it actually was excellent. The bread tasted great, like a fantastic English-muffin, and it was served with a mustard that went very well with the meat.
Tomato seeds and anchovies - A piece of bread with olive oil, tomato, and anchovy. Pretty much what it sounds like. Nothing mind-blowing, but tasty still.
Liquid Ravioli - Another sphere, this time made to taste like ravioli. The sphere was made from a mix of Payoyo cheese, which comes from sheep. On top of the sphere was a little slice of crispy bread and olive oil. I'm not a big strong cheese fan, but serve it to me like this and I'll still eat it. :-P I quite enjoyed it, even if it wasn't something I would want to eat every day.
Confit Potatoes in Olive Oil with Pork Rib Sauce and Iberian Boiled Ham - Quite good, there were lots of different flavors.
Asparagus with Black Truffle Vinaigrette and Iberian Ham Crust - Pieces of white asparagus served with a creamy white sauce with black truffles, with lovely little Iberian ham "bacon bits" on top.
Rabbit Ribs with Foamed Garlic Mayonnaise - These were excellent. Little rabbit ribs battered and fried served with the lovely garlic sauce.
La Naranja: Orange Slush flavored with Anise - So refreshing. Orange slush served in a hollowed-out frozen orange, with tons of mint around it and sugar underneath, both of which we added to the sorbet for some extra flavor. :-D I liked this a lot.
Cold-Hot Chocolate Fritters - Little pastry balls/dumplings with a fantastic texture, chewy, but in a good way. Filled with a great chocolate mix that explodes in the mouth.
Liquorice Dry-Meringue with White Chocolate Truffle and Passion Fruit - A beautiful little meringue filled with white chocolate and passion fruit. This was also outstanding.
Cotton Candy Tree - The last dish! Although this wasn't different from any other cotton candy I've tried, the presentation was fabulous. They gave you a little tree, with bunches of little cotton candy servings on each branch, with a little fruit and edible flower on each one. So much fun to eat.
To finish, our waiter gave us a little after dinner shot that apparently he made himself. It had so many ingredients, I can't remember, but it was very good.
Overall, Tickets was our favorite meal of the trip. We were able to try so many different things, and almost all of them tasted fantastic. The restaurant was a very fun place to be, and I was surprised to see that there were many locals eating there as well.
For pictures here is a link to my Flickr page.
Great report, Erdbeereis!
I love the chicken canelones at Alkimia too and the lamb, cooked sous vide, with the crispy skin.
Re: Kaiku, did I miss your review of the rice dish or did you not have the rice? That's what they are known for. I look forward to eating having their Arros de Chef this summer. (reservations just confirmed through the hotel today!) With your extended family, you were able to try out some of their other dishes. Glad to hear it worked out.
Re: Tickets, I'm very excited about it too. I was a big fan of the former Inopia. :-P
Great report, Erdbeereis. Thank you so much.
I feel I should take this opportunity to reiterate what I've written before that a granja is NOT the place to get churros. There are tons of yummy things to order at granjas, but churros are not one of them. I feel this should be part of a Spain/Portugal board FAQ: Never get churros at a granja or at Cafè de l'Òpera.
They should be bought at a churreria - a place specialized in making churros and other fried snacks. There are tons of them all over Barcelona. Some are better than others. I like the one just up the street from La Granja on C/ Banys Nous in the Gotico. I've had great ones at Xurreria Sagrada Familia near the church of the same name. They are not hard to find. The idea is to have them as fresh as possible. When they cool down, they lose a lot of their appeal.
Thank you so much for the wonderful report write-up and your pictures were fabulous!!!! I really, really appreciate you sharing this as I plan for our trip!
Tickets I already had on my list, but Kaiku might make it too. :-)