Barcelona, Zaragoza, La Rioja, San Sebastian, Girona tour review!
This review is truly delayed (we went in Sept 2011), but I spent so much time researching on chow hound, I really wanted to return the favor. We went as a postponed honey moon and boy did we eat!! Please PM with any further questions.
- El Quim de Boqueria: This is the "other" not as popular but I think tastier option to amazing dining on a stool in the Boqueria market. It was our first meal in Spain but one of the more memorable because it really captured the laid back nature of spanish cuisine, the freshness of ingredients and amazing seafood!!! Loved the wild mushrooms/seared foie/fried egg (AMAZING!), baby squid beautifully sautéed and gambas (prawns) sautéed shell off in a marsala wine sauce with garlic. eat them all!
- Alkimia: We did A LOT of tasting menus, so will try to do a good job of comparing within the city... in barcelona we felt this tasting menu was delicious in food, forward thinking in modern cuisine but lacking in service (especially of the 3 we did in barcelona). I think it's probably our 2nd favorite (behind Comerc and above Cinc sentits). The presentation level was high, beautiful dishes. It was my favorite mullet preparation, favorite squid as well. I only wish the service was at a higher level. Must do the tasting menu, I think it was the cheapest (eh, least expensive) of the 3.
- Cinc Sentits: We did this tasting menu for lunch, added the foie gras and steak -- the foie gras was my favorite in all of spain, just melts in your mouth amazing deliciousness. the service was phenomenal, attentive and best of the 3 tasting menus in barcelona. the rest of the menu was good but a little bit more on the traditional/straight forward, and as a couple we love love molecular cuisine. flavors were solid but we prefer thinking outside the box a bit more. not to say i couldn't come back!! just we had just amazing meals, this was worst of the best :)
- Comerc 24: we did the grand tasting here and completely were thrown off to the fact that they are actually japanese inspired spanish food! My husband loved comerc the most, probably because of the 3 we had, this was most "modern", most molecular and interesting - if thats what you're into. i felt they were the most inconsistent in terms of perfecting every dish - there were definitely hits and misses. the cod was over salted (inedible personally). but probably the most out there of cuisines. they also offer a wonderful bread/olive oil service which we loved.
- Can Mano: we spent 1 night in barceloneta at the W (which is a must!), and ran into this small hole-in-the-wall. I recognized the name from my countless hours of CH research and so glad we swung by. by far the cheapest meal and cheapest bottle of wine i had in spain. the seafood was fresh - almost caught that day probably. we had the fried sardines, the grilled sepia and sausages. loved the experience probably more than the food. a nice lunch spot.
- Tapas 24: really wish i had tried the other tapas spot in the quarter, but we were staying closer to tapas 24 and heard good things.. verdict is.. WINNER! we tried to order the menu. I could tell prices here probably were steeper than most tapas spots, but i think the finality lies in the quality of ingredient and flavors. everything we tasted was well seasoned and delicious. best papas we had in spain, the bikini can't be skipped. there was a wait (about 30 mins) but space is small.
Zaragoza: This was a pit-stop on the way to Logrono. it was sunday and there were thousands of locals in the streets that night for what we weren't sure... but we found this cute/homey spot close to the hotel that was worthy of mentioning. Ana Saz is owned by husband/wife couple, at 9pm was completely deserted and we asked if we could be seated and he said well... all tables were reserved.. at 9pm and empty! we were seated and 30 mins later, restaurant - packed. solid local cuisine, but nothing to write home about further than this.
La Rioja wine region:
Did a lot of research for the whole region and had an amazing time, just wish we didn't go on sunday/monday where most of the places we want to go to were closed.
-Calle de Laurel in Logrono: this is an absolute must go if you're even remotely nearby. the street comes alive after dusk and there are probably a hundred small pintoxo bars. you stroll along, looking for what fancies your taste buds. each bar has its "specialty" pinxto, some serve just 1 type. our favorites were the papa bravas pintxo bar and the champinion (mushroom) bar. such a great experience of the local culture and amazing food to boot.
-Fuenmayor, Meson Chuchi: So dinner was limited because we were there on Sun/Mon and everything was closed, but our hotel recommended this great, traditionally basque spot for dinner. They are well established in the area for cochinita - roasted suckling pig. oh boy was it perfect. I was served a suckling pig leg with the crispy skin atop, with a whole roasted garlic head and the pig jus. just so fulfilling!!! loved it.
-wineries: we loved Ysios for its amazing architecture alone, wine was good. Marques de riscal for both its architecture (of the hotel) and its amazing history. Marques was a fun winery tour, would def recommend.
-Marques de riscal restaurant: we had the more traditional restaurant for lunch one day. it was "alright" probably a let-down from all the amazing food we've had prior. again options were limited due to it being sunday. not sure i would eat here again.
-Asador Etxebarri in Atxondo. So no one really would venture out this way if not for this restaurant. The drive from La Rioja was absolutely breath taking and we would do that again, hands down. We arrived at 2pm in time for lunch. We enjoyed a 9 course tour of the grill expert of the world. The food was ALL ABOUT THE INGREDIENT. no bells, no whistles. just you and the best ingredient spain has to offer. we got to meet the sous chef after the meal who gave us a tour of the kitchen, which like the food was very simple.
-Mugaritz: This was our most expensive meal in spain, yet strangely enough, our most disappointing. I probably should have done more research into their cuisine and their philosophy. The chef recently did an interview here in the US and i got some more insight into how he thinks, but still won't bring my meal here to more light. Most of the savory dishes had a gelatinous texture that I couldn't overcome. Some dishes were over salted. Service was good, but I wish more detailed considering they're trying to make their food thought provoking - they should make more of an effort to explain it to us. oh well. try it and make your own opinion i guess.
- Akelarre: We went here for the lunch tasting, so we could catch the view of the beautiful ocean (recommended). What was most respected is that Akelarre's been doing this type of modern cuisine for >20 years! The food was delicious, the presentation was most amazing and perfect of all of our tasting menus. Service was amazing. Definitely deserving of 3 michelin stars, year after year. they know how to do it right. highly recommended.
- Pintxos: i was overally disappointed in the pintxo scene in san sebastian. i had high expectations. we even went to the spots that were highly recommended across the blogs.
Our final spot of our trip, couldn't get into El Cellar Can Roca, so we we with a hotel recommendation
-Massana: Apparently the 2nd best restaurant in Girona behind El Cellar.. and we loved it! we opted for the tasting and everything was absolutely delicious. modern? probably not so much. but sometimes when it comes down to it, what we all strive for is just deliciously cooked food and respect to the ingredients, which Massana did both of. Highly recommended if you're in Girona and can't get into El Cellar :)
Thanks for reading. Please PM with any questions!