Friday, 23 November 2007

My weekend at Barcelona

Moderately priced Barcelona dining including a fantastic outdoor market and a wonderful place for tapas

Barcelona is a wonderful city. Don't miss all the Gaudi offerings: Sagrada Familia (a church like you have never seen before), La Paradera, Casa Battlo, Parc Guell). All are just amazing sights to see. If you rent the guided tour at the houses, you will learn so much about Gaudi and his techniques. And then there is the Picasso Museum and the Fondacion Juan Miro which are not to be missed!

I arrived on Thursday and had dinner at Tragaluz. I really did not enjoy my meal and for what I ate and drank, it was too expensive. But a few days later, I went across the street to El Japonese de Tragaluz and that was a winner. It is a sushi tapas bar. I had a succulent mango salad with salmon; tataki of tuna (seared tuna with a variety of sauces); and a few selected delicious sushis. If you go at 3, expect to wait. This is a popular place but the wait is worth it if you like Japanese food.

Near the Picasso Museum is Nou Cellar. This is a very authentic Catalan restaurant.
Not expensive; not touristy; good honest food. I had grilled squid and pa amb tomaquet--toasted bread rubbed with fresh tomato. The latter is the sine qua non of typical Catalan cuisine and must be tried at least once. Other offerings are the quintessential Spanish omelette--served at room temperature and made with potatoes; and fancy Spanish ham.

Don't miss La Boqueria. It is the beautiful market on Las Ramblas. You have never seen such a marvelous display of fruits and vegetables, hams, fish and seafood!!! It makes you wish you had a kitchen so that you could buy and cook what they have to offer. Perhaps you will be satisfied to take a lot of photos (see postings) and (like me) buy some of the delicious ham that they package for transporting to countries far away.

Among my favorite restaurants was Agut (not to be confused with Agut d'Avignon which might have some French influence). Honest delicious food at moderate prices in a colorful diningroom. I had a delicious monkfish stew as my main course and was very pleased. An entire meal of three courses with wine, water and coffee came to about 40 euros.

I wanted to try a fancy restaurant and braved the taxi ride to the suburbs of Barcelona to Neichel. This is a restaurant that used to have 2 Michelin stars and now has one. However, it is a wonderful place for a fancy tranquil and delicious meal. The chef is an artist and he designed the cards and the menu. With the little I, I had Cava which is a lovely Spanish champagne. My first course was a salad of wild mushrooms with quail and summer truffles--just lovely. My main course was a dish that boasted langoustines, gambas with squid tagliatelle and saffron. I opted for the dessert cart where you can choose from your heart's delight of desserts ranging from ice creams and sorbets to fruit tarts and chocolate cakes. This wonderful meal comes to just over 100 euros and is a lovely way to celebrate your weekend at Barcelona.

Well, you can't go to Barcelona without getting paella and I went to the most famous of all paella places. It is called Seite Puertas and is in Barceloneta right near that metro stop. They ask you if you have a reservation when you enter but they don't take reservations so who argues with that logic? I stood on line for an hour and then was ushered to a very nice table in one of the main diningrooms. The thing to get there is arroz nero--with black ink and squid. However, they were all out so I got the arroz parillada--or poor man's paella with fish. I had squid, mussels, lobster tail and shrimp in a delicious tomato-ey sauce with a half bottle of dry white Rioja. My starter was the quintessential pa amb tomaquet (tomato rubbed toast that I spoke of) and enscalivada which is a dish of roasted red peppers and roasted eggplant in olive oil. This was a fun evening, especially since I met some very lovely Portuguese people as I waited on line. I got there at about 8 but didn't sit down until the civilized hour of 9.

Before I left, I had to go to a pintxo bar. Apparently pintxo are tapas that are served in the South although I think that they are mixtures of delicious foods served on little baguette slices whereas tapas are the plain food like ham or seafood served on a plate. I found Irati just near the metro Liceu on Las Ramblas. There is a fantastic array of pintxo offerings. Each one costs 1,70 euros and is held together with a toothpick. After you have eaten, they count the toothpicks to see what you owe. You choose while you are standing at the bar and can order wine or beer or other beverages to wash down your food. If you like, you can sit in the restaurant in back for more substantial offerings. I had a delicious crab concoction; a baguette with fancy Spanish ham; Spanish omelette layered with crabmeat; codfish in a delicious tomato sauce. Everything was wonderful and memorable. Irati is open everyday from 11am to midnight. The restaurant section has shorter hours--probably opening at 1 or so.

The Spanish people eat much later than we are used to. So lunch is early at 3 and goes on until about 5 and dinner is served at around 9:30-midnight. You can get tapas and pintxos to tide you over for the rest of the day.