6 Catalonia restaurant reviews (2 in Cadaques and 4 in Barcelona)

14 Jul

I apologize to my foodie followers for not having blogged in 10 days. I’ve had company in Barcelona (first, my friend Katie, then C, and now my dad and Maren) and we’ve been on an eating, drinking and sight-seeing tear. But, I hope to make up for the lack of communication in this and my next 2 blog posts. So much to tell!

First, I thought it was appropriate to post 4 of us in an egg. One of my favorite dishes of the last 2 weeks was the egg dish at Compartir in Cadaques, where Maren, Al, Diana and I dined this week. I love this pic as I think it looks like we’re on an amusement park ride. Really, it might be a metaphor for my life since February. I have loved this food ride!

So, onto the food from the past 2 weeks! I’ll go in order of my favorite restaurants to the one train wreck of a dinner: 1) Alkimia, 2) Cenc Sentits, 3) Compartir, 4) Raco D’en cesc, 5) Can Juli, and 6) Hisop (the train wreck). I will review only Alkimia in today’s blog, then the next 2 in tomorrow’s blog, and the final 3 in Monday’s blog. There are so many pictures of the beautiful food to include in 1 blog post. Additionally, we had so much fun touring that I want to include some of the best pics of the sight-seeing, as well.

Last night’s dinner at Alkimia was fantastic. I went to Alkimia my first week in Barcelona and was completely impressed. I was equally impressed last night, with an entirely different menu. I have now eaten at 5, one-star Michelin restaurants in Barcelona and this one is far and away so much better than the others except for one – Cinc Sentits – which I’ll review tomorrow.

Here’s this week’s Alkimia menu:

First course: Zuchinni spagetini with barnacles, algae, lemon supremes, razor clams, the smallest caviar i’ve ever seen, all in a very punchy, citrus dressing – yummmm! This was a perfect starter.

Second course: Almond brandade over a pickled tomato juice. The cod was incredibly rich, but the citrus elements from the tomato and the crunch of the blanched almonds were great compliments.

Third course: Pickled oyster with pork cheek over spinach. I loved, loved this dish. The star was the pork cheek. You didn’t even need a fork, let alone a knife to cut it, it was so tender. The spinach was perfectly cooked and the pickled oyster was a great pairing with the rich pork cheek.

Fourth course: Cuttlefish with ink and pickled ginger. This was my favorite presentation because I think it’s very moody and modern. But, overall the dish was a bit too fishy for me. I think I’m just not a fan of cuttlefish, as dad and Maren really liked it. The sauce was delicious, however.

A bonus course (not on the 10 course tasting menu): shrimp in shrimp consommé with sea beans and a lemon oil, mustard whipped cream. I loved the service on this one. They plated just the shrimp and sea beans first in a bowl they smeared with what appeared to be a sort of dried tomato-shrimp paste, and then they added the consommé on top of it at the table. Then, we were instructed to taste just one spoon full of the consommé prior to the server adding the dollop of heavenly, lemon-scented whipped cream.

Below are the first 2 steps in the process. Apparently, I didn’t snap a pic of the final one with the cream on top, but just imagine a dollop of lemony-herby whipped cream on top.

Fifth course: Smoked gambas (large, red shrimp from the Med Sea) with cocoa nibs over hot rock salt containing charred bay leaves, crushed cloves and sliced lemon rinds. They smoked the shrimp over these and the plate and the salt came hot, so it was a gorgeous aromatic presentation. The gambas were still a bit crudo and you could really taste the clove and lemon on them. In my opinion, this was a perfect dish.

Sixth course: Mackerel with vermouth and roasted padron with a sardine inside. The skin on the mackerel was perfectly crispy and the accompanying side pepper was a great, salty/briny combo to go with it. Again, it was a 2 step presentation. They plated the main components and served the plate to us. Then, they poured the hot vermouth in the plate at the table. The vermouth broth was fabulous.

Seventh course: Pescado del dia. This dish was grouper with dried black olive tapenade, over a beet sauce, with a smear of sweet onion sauce around it. The presentation was stunning due to the beet sauce, but I thought the grouper was a bad choice of fish. Maren, Al and I were thinking of adjectives to describe it and here’s our list: spongy, rubbery and chewy. None of us liked the texture at all and the skin was certainly not meant to be eaten. However, the rest of the plate was awesome. Both sauces and the olive tapenade blew me away. Had they used a halibut or a lake trout it would have knocked my socks off!

Eighth course: Beef and crispy gizzards with pickles, tempura onion rings, tangy mustard seeds, and some crudo vegetables. This was my other favorite dish of the night. Again, everything was perfectly executed. The beef was ridiculously good, the tempura onion rings were crunchy and light, and the whole seed mustard sauce over the baby crudo veggies was the citrusy element it needed for balance alongside a rich beef sauce.

The onion ring:

2 desserts: First, a fabulous tea infused ice cream over a very delicate whipped cream over fresh strawberries. I asked what was in the ice cream and the server said orange, cinnamon, and early grey tea. Second, a chocolate ganache “bar” next to the best mango ice cream EVER! (over some crispy sweet cookie-like crumbs).

Until this past week, I have not been too impressed with the desserts at a lot of fine restaurants in Catalonia (including the ones I made at Dos Palillos, with the exception of the ningyo yaki de chocolate, the yuzu ice cream, and the green tea ice cream – those were “wow”.) Having said that, the desserts at Alkimia were the best ones I’ve had to date. I’m a harsh critic of chocolate and the chocolate ganache was stunning. The pairing of that with mango ice cream that tasted like you just took a bite of a fresh, ripe mango, was a killer combo. Maren and Al agreed.

Equally as exceptional were the petit fours at the end of the meal. It was a trio: 1) bizcocho (sponge cake) topped with lime zest and coffee, 2) white chocolate “lollipops” with liquid passion fruit inside – quite possibly my favorite item of the evening!, and 3) milk chocolate “mini-cups” with an olive oil float on top and an almond biscuit as the vehicle for the chocolate cup.

Onto drinks… we started out with our requisite “copas de cava”, and they were lovely, big pours. Next, we ordered a bottle of white to go along with our mostly fish meal. It was so different and delicious. I will definitely order it again, as it was fairly dry, mineral-y, pretty complex for a young white, and it was not expensive. Here’s the pic:

Then, our sommelier suggested a glass of red to go with the beef dish. I can’t remember the name (stupid me, but I was already 2 glasses into wine) but it was a mix of garnatxa (Catalan spelling for granache), merlot, cabernet sauvignon and a 4th local red grape.

Finally, I asked for an after dinner licor that would go with our petit fours but that wasn’t too sweet. The sommelier brought out the bottle of what translated into “herb liquor”. It was delicious and dangerous.

And, finally, the stiff pours of the licor de hierbas:

It’s 2 p.m. and dad and Maren are playing cards. I’m still drinking coffee and fizzy packets. We’re all vowing never to drain that bottle of liquor again, delicious as it was.

Buen Provecho!

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4 Responses to “6 Catalonia restaurant reviews (2 in Cadaques and 4 in Barcelona)”

  1. Diana July 14, 2012 at 12:20 pm #

    I love your posts, full of life, emotions and joy. See you in a couple of hours. XX Diana

  2. sim thadani July 14, 2012 at 1:27 pm #

    wow, sounds phenom! when i studied abroad in spain (andalucia, to be fair, not catalunya) 8 years ago i ate frugally but well… i wonder if a vegetarian like me would do well on the spanish michelin circuit! loving your posts, as always. xoxo sim

  3. Shannon July 15, 2012 at 5:14 am #

    I agree, Alkimia was fab… but I think I loved Osmosis more :o) With a good mix of ‘lower life’ places like Cal Pep just to recover from the rich food! BTW: Love the pic in the egg…

    • rachel July 15, 2012 at 7:47 am #

      I’ve not eaten at any “lower life” places in Barcelona other than 2 Michelin-star restaurants called Sauc and Hisop 😉 Everything else I’ve pretty much loved. It’s so hard to choose a ranking! That was just my ranking of how the restaurants did in the last 2 weeks.

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