Barcelona: Three restaurants

We recently spent a gastronomic weekend in Barcelona (big thanks to the grandparents who volunteered to keep the kids while we crossed the continent to stuff our faces). This was prompted by the fact that we managed to secure a table at Tickets (more on that later) and so we planned the whole weekend based around that. Now, I’ve mentioned before that, as much as I still enjoy these dining excursions, I’m losing interest in photographing and documenting them. Pointing my camera at my plate is starting to get in the way of my enjoyment of the meal and writing up a report about it afterwards feels like a chore. I wasn’t intending to do any of that on this trip. I did end up taking some shots but I think it’ll probably be the last time.

I’ve also, in order to save space, combined three restaurants in one post and just shown some highlights from each rather than an exhaustive list of everything we ate.

We arrived on Friday and had a spot of lunch in Barcelona’s amazing Boqueria market. Dinner that evening was at Pakta; one of a range of new bars and restaurants (known collectively as “El Barri“) owned and managed by the Adrià brothers of El Bulli fame. Pakta offers “Nikkei” cuisine which the website explains thus:

“The term Nikkei is used to refer to emigrants of Japanese origin and their descendants. Peru was the first South American country to have a diplomatic relationship with the Empire of Japan in 1873, and also the first to receive Japanese workers. In the mid 80’s the name was used as a reference for all Japanese cuisine that is prepared outside Japan using indigenous products, however, for most, the term has been accepted and defined as a mixture of Japanese and Peruvian cuisine, that combines the tastes and techniques of both cultures.”

We arrived at 7pm, just as they opened.

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It’s pretty small but cosy.

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Here’s our full menu. There were only two menus offered and no à la carte option. We chose the shorter of the two because this one already looked like quite enough, and the other had basically the same stuff but with a few extra dishes like sea snail and t-bone steak.

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This is the first dish described above: the “honzen ryori”. The cherry in the centre, dipped in kimchi, was pretty good.

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Tuna tartare with crispy nori:

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These are mini “causas“, which are essentially mashed potato filled with meat or fish. Very moreish.

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Xiaolongbao, which is a kind of Chinese steamed dumpling. These were filled with suckling pig and once popped in the mouth they just dissolved/melted/exploded, filling your mouth with fatty porky deliciousness.

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Fried fish.

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Dessert selection. One of the sticks is edible. Can you guess which one?

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Everything was delicious, and although we were full by the end we did wonder whether we should have gone for the longer menu just so that we could have tried everything. It’s also made me keen to seek out some genuine Peruvian cuisine, especially if we can find some more traditional causas.

The next day we had lunch at Tickets, which is just around the corner from Pakta. Tickets is basically a tapas bar, albeit a fairly fancy one which you have to book months in advance, so you’re unlikely to just pop in for a glass of wine and some patatas bravas. The decor is fun and circus-themed.

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We had a seat at the bar facing the kitchen.

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Tickets tapas tongs. Available to buy for €12.

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We could have chosen individual dishes but ended up letting them choose a selection of 15 for us. First was a famous one previously served at El Bulli: gel spheres containing olive, cinnamon oil, black pepper and lemon.

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This one had probably the weirdest presentation. It’s basically a cherry with a foam “beard” of lime and kimchi powder. You had to use the little scissors hanging on the lower branch to snip the cherry off and eat it whole before the foam dripped everywhere. Nice, but maybe a little too fussy. At the base are watermelon sangria and Iranian pistachio with crispy rice.

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I came all this way from Brussels and what do they give me to eat? A waffle!
Ok, admittedly it’s a very nice basil-flavoured waffle filled with scamorza cheese and pine nuts.

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Pizza. Kind of. Wafer thin, dotted with olive oil jelly spheres and tomato powder.

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Shrimp, chicken skin, tarama fish eggs. This is the only one I saw which looks like the original “tapa”, which was a slice of bread used to cover your drink like a lid.

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Nordic landscape. Kobe beef, shallots, vinegar powder, dill. This one was amazing, at least in part due to the vinegar powder.

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Alaskan salmon, skin and wakame salad

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Spaghetti! Only not. Actually made from shredded mushroom instead of pasta.

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For dessert we moved into a separate area behind the bar. Over-sized plastic fruit hung from the ceiling and one wall was covered with screens showing scenes from foodie films like Ratatouille and Willy Wonka.

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Another tree, this time with spoons held on by hidden magnets. On the rose was a blob of some kind of sweet goo.

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This nice lady made us instant pineapple sorbet with liquid nitrogen and pink pepper.

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Served in half a pineapple, obviously.

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There I am, taking photos when I should have just been eating. I can take comfort in the fact that many other diners were more obsessively taking photos and notes than me.

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The bill was surprisingly reasonable considering the stature of the chefs, and I’d be keen to go back some day to try all the other stuff on the menu.

Finally, we added a restaurant we hadn’t planned to visit. I knew that there was a Michelin-starred restaurant connected to our hotel, but we only asked about a table on the day we arrived. Fortunately they were able to squeeze us in on Saturday night. Here are the kitchen staff resting outside earlier in the day.

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The restaurant is called Dos Palillos and we didn’t know anything about it before going in. It’s run by a guy who was head chef at El Bulli for six years, which was a pretty good sign.

We had seats at the bar, and we could see the staff prepping and plating dishes all evening, which was fascinating to watch, not only for the technical aspects of putting the food together but also to see how the staff worked together (one guy was obviously new and inexperienced, and was being shown the ropes by a colleague).

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Here’s the menu we chose. It turned out to be primarily Japanese-style food, which was fine by us. I didn’t take any photos but my wife took a few with her phone.

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The first one looks a mess but was actually one of the highlights. Small fried fish “trapped in a fishnet” made of dried seaweed.

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This is the “crispy canapé of bone marrow”

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Laughably phallic asparagus.

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I actually don’t remember what this one is. They were slightly gloopy ravioli-type things.

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Chicken sashimi and some kind of fish roe. Yes, that’s right. Raw chicken. One of the other dishes was nare-sushi, which is basically old, fermented sushi. This is not food for the faint-hearted.

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Red mullet sashimi.

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One of the desserts was covered in shaved ice, which was perfect for a hot summer evening.

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Overall a very nice surprise. Recommended.

The next day we took it easy foodwise but we did stop in a tapas bar in the centre of town.

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If you fancy a foodie weekend away Barcelona’s a very good choice, as far as I’m concerned, even if you don’t fancy arty Japanese fusion stuff. The tapas alone would keep you happy for a week. There’s something for everyone, and I think we should come back soon with the kids.