Spain Report Part 1 - Barcelona
First, a thank you to everyone who posted on this board in response to my earlier queries, especially PBSF and Erica. We were in Barcelona for barely three days (9/17-20) – great city and great food, and I know we only barely scratched the surface in that short time.
Our first lunch was at BAR PINOXTO in the La Boqueria Market. I’d read that it’s always crowded and it certainly was, but it was pretty easy to muscle our way in and order (and eventually get one seat). We shared a few things – a dish of white beans and baby squid drizzled with olive oil and balsamic; an order of croquettas (ham and mushroom/cheese) and a third plate of small whole fried white fish served over salad greens with a simple oil and vinegar dressing. It seemed a bit pricey but overall worth the experience of eating inside the market. IMO, La Boqueria is a must see for any food lover. It’s sensory overload in the best way possible. We bought some of the high end jamon to nibble on and also visited the juice vendor at the entrance to the market which had more choices and combinations of fresh juices than I’d ever seen. We settled on a strawberry mango juice which was refreshing and sweet on a hot day.
Dinner our first night was at HISOP (Passatge Marimon, 9; www.hisop.com), which I had seen recommended many times on this board and which I’d reserved a few weeks in advance of our trip. It did not disappoint. We each had the tasting menu and wine pairing. The menu we were given did not specify that a wine pairing was available but our server was very helpful and spoke English well enough for all of us to communicate. The tasting menu with wine pairing was 70 Euro per person. Courses were:
Amuses: (1) Clam served in a shotglass with a sea water and vanilla foam and (2) Anchovy tartare, not sure of the sauce it was in but it seemed like a romesco or similar to a romesco
First course: 2 slender prawns with tarragon and almond puree
Second course: Monkfish over saffron rice
Third course: Squab with Armagnac sauce, served alongside julienned mango and a small quenelle of lavender ice cream
Fourth course: Cheese plate
Fifth course: Dessert – dense (possibly flourless) chocolate cake with cool yogurt and (I'm pretty sure) an eggplant-based ice cream. Instead of wine with this course, it was paired with a beer which really worked. This course blew me away, and I’m not a dessert person, so that’s saying something.
Everything was excellent – the monkfish and squab were my personal highlights for the non-dessert courses.
Lunch at EL XAMPANYET (Carrer de Montcada, 22). A lively place to grab some pinxtos conveniently located just down from the Picasso Museum. We were there for lunch on a Sunday and the place was packed, mostly with locals. We did not see many other tourists. Service was fast, even with the big crowd. We nibbled on smoked mussels, marinated fish and sweet cherry peppers stuffed with a soft, fresh white cheese.
For dinner we did a pinxto crawl in the El Born based entirely on recommendations from this board and it was wonderful. Our first stop was LA VINYA DEL SENYOR (Santa Maria, 5). Wonderful little wine bar, with an impressive, lengthy selection of wines by the glass. We each ordered glasses of wine and shared a dish of raw salt cod, a dish called “inch of foie gras” which is foie on two small pieces of toast sprinkled with sea salt and a meatball with porcini sauce.
Our next stop was SAGARDI (Carrer de l'Argenteria, 62) which was probably our favorite stop. Wonderful olives and peppers, piquillo peppers stuffed with tuna, blood sausage, croquettas.
Next we tried EUSKAL EXTEA (Montcada, 1), which had similar offerings to Sagardi and the pinxtos were top notch. We preferred the ambience in Sagardi a bit more.
Our final stop was BAR DEL PLA (did not note address). It was about to close when we arrived so I can’t say definitively whether I’d recommend it or not as we didn’t stay long or eat much - my BF ordered the Crema Catalan and thought it was OK but nothing spectacular and I finished my evening with their house cava which was nice.
Dinner at TAKTIKA BERRI (C/ Valencia, 169), Basque fare. Good, simple food and a good value. The portions were larger than we expected. We shared a huge omelette with salt cod (Tortilla Bacalao), white beans in broth (Pochas de Navarra), fried pork cutlets (Lomo de Cerdo) and the winner of the evening – hake atop a garlic butter sauce sprinkled with crispy fried garlic and rings of dried red pepper (Tronco Merluza, which is apparently their signature dish). Entire meal including bread charge, bottle of water, bottle of a local white wine (only 8,50 Euro and it went great with the food) and an after dinner drink for the BF came to just under 64 Euro.
Basically, everything we ate and drank in Barcelona was good, from the cheap sandwiches we'd grab on the go in the mornings before heading out for the heavy sightseeing to whatever inexpensive house wines we'd order with our pinxtos.
Will post reports for Sevilla, Granada and Madrid separately.