Barcelona - Paco Meralgo - a great lunch and over the top customer service
(I wrote this several days ago but it went kerflooey when I tried to post. So I'm not as wordy this time hopefully.)
We had lunch here Sunday, arriving at 1 when they were literally opening the doors. Sat at the bar which I highly recommend. There were things we ordered because we saw them that we might not have otherwise. It's a light, contemporary space; very handsome.
We started with a bottle of cava, of course. I've developed quite a taste for at least one glass of that every afternoon :) In no particular order, we had the following. Pan con tomate even though I'm in braces on my teeth. The bread was so fresh that I had no trouble eating it. "Smushed" tomato on top and the all but ubiquitous drizzle of oo. Espardenyes which are sea cucumbers and to my palate tasted like lobster. I can't remember where I'd read about them but when I saw them on the bar I had to have. They were the most expensive thing on the menu at 21 Euros but they were great and I'd order them again. Cod and tomato salad was large chunks of cod mixed with pureed tomatoes and again drizzled with oo. This was so fresh and light; I could eat it every day. Anchovies battered in cornmeal and fried. I've not ever been a huge fan of anchovies but these were so fresh I loved them with just a squeeze of lemon. A highlight and something I want to try at home were the artichokes. Smallish chokes thinly sliced and quickly fried. Fabulous. I think they could have done with a little salt; my fault for not asking. Baby veal cutlets which were kinda disappointing. They were completely tender but breaded in cornmeal (I believe) and fried and mostly tasted of the breading. At this point we were winding down and were trying to decide if we wanted dessert. But something nice looking got delivered a few seats and down and when we found out it was foie...THAT was our dessert!!! I've had foie and recently I've cooked foie and this was the best. It was barely cooked and had a little sauce of ???. Super soft butter in texture and totally rare. A little smaller than a deck of cards on a piece of barely toasted "nut" bread. I was shocked that the price was 6.30 Euros. Everything was perfectly paced. Never more than two things in front of us but never much of a wait either. Really added to the meal. We were both surprised that the final cost was a smidge under 75 Euros. That's a splurge for us but SO worth it.
Here comes the customer service part. We got ready to pay and Bob discovered that his wallet had been stolen! I reached for mine and it was gone also. Not Chow-related so I won't go into the details but it was no amateur. When we explained to our server, he brought the manager to our side of the bar. He could not have been nicer. Totally low key. "Don't worry about it." Granted we couldn't have paid them but he could have embarassed us. Not a glimmer of annoyance. Two days later when we returned with money (thanks, Western Union and daughter Amanda!) we felt duty bound (hahaha) to have just a little more to eat. Out of gratitude only, of course. We had the bread again, fried baby squid and a little more foie. With just glasses of cava.
Without the great kindness, I would still highly recommend Paco Meralgo. And actually did today to a traveler who has one day in Barcelona and, of course, hit it when there's a one-day, multi-country strike!!! If they're open, he said he's starting with the foie. Go here; you'll love it.
I was thinking about that Cod and Tomato Salad tapa you mentioned and it sounds very like an Italian-American Christmas Eve staple: Baccala. Made with salt cod that has been soaked in fresh water for a few days before cooking. I've never made it myself but it was on the table every year either made by my mother or an uncle. When made well it's really delicious. Perhaps this year is the time for me to make it. It's a quite simple recipe.