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I have been remiss in posting a report about my week in Barcelona last month. After 4 days in Valencia (detailed here: we took the train from Valencia's sparkling new Joaquin Sorolla station (discount tickets purchased by my friend on the Renfe site) to Barcelona Sants, and taxied to our rental apartment, where we would be ensconced for one week. I have made several previous visits to Barcelona, so we did not follow the usual tourist path. Our main focus was food, and on that score, Barcelona has few equals in Europe, or anywhere else, in my opinion.

I am more than happy to engage in discussions here about the following restaurants, or other aspects of our delightful stay in Barcelona.

We had a rental apartment for one week, near Placa Universitat. This is the first time that I have rented an apartment in Europe and it was an experience that I can only hope to repeat many times in the future. The rental agency was incredibly efficient, and the apartment, was just about perfect. I could certainly have lived there for many months! Every detail was included, from every conceivable kitchen appliance to stacks of fluffy white towels, to chilled cava waiting in the frig for us. Quality was impeccable. On separate occasions, we invited the owners of the agency, and their staff member, to dine with us, as we had such fun chatting with each of them.

This is the agency:

This is the 2-bedroom; 2-bathroom apartment that we rented at a price of 165 euro per night. While it is located on a busy commercial thoroughfare running west from Placa Catalunya, the apartment itself is located in the rear of the building, overlooking a courtyard, and it was very quiet. The immediate neighborhood is not charming, but it is beautifully located almost at the junction between the old city and the Eixample. Walk to Boqueria, for example, takes less than 15 minutes. We walked everywhere; taking only 2 trains during the week, and a few taxis at night.

The restaurants we visited were in the Eixample, with the exception of Cal Pep and the Boqueria market counters; I did not discuss these here, but I highly recommend El Quim and Pinotxo, both of which fed us terrific snacks during our market wanderings.

Here is a brief report of our dinners in Barcelona. (Missing from the report is one of the best dinners of the trip; there are so many reviews, online and in print, of Cinc Sentits, and our meal was so long and so intricate, that I did not take the trouble to depict it here, although it was the best meal of our trip). This is their site; reservations are difficult to secure:


We booked ahead at this modern tapas bar/restaurant on a corner in the Eixample for an early dinner on Sunday, the day of arrival from Valencia. Service was friendly; serving staff speak at least some English and there is even an English menu. We took two seats at the bar with a view of the partially open kitchen. (Cooks here are Filipino, BTW). There are also about a dozen or so tables.

I am afraid that we had a rather unbalanced meal, heavy on the starch, as we ordered dishes that appealed without attempting any kind of sensible progression of courses.
Prices are for half raciones, or half orders, and portions are fairly small.

Pan con Tomate. Excellent version here of this Catalan favorite--toasted bread rubbed with tomato and garlic and topped with olive oil. Almost every diner had a plate of this.

Viruta de Alcachofas (4.70) Fried artichokes. Cut thick enough to allow some meatiness, these were sublime and highly recommended.

Navajas a la Plancha (9.40) After experiencing the celestial heights of the navajas at Madrid's Taberna Laredo, I am afraid that I will search in vain for anything that measures up. These razor clams were fresh and simply prepared, but without that touch of browning from the grill, they fell short of the grail for me.

Patatas Bravas (5.80). Excellent with sauce that packed a spicy kick. Could have used a bit more salt, and a bit more browning. (Some of the other dishes here were also undersalted, in my opinion)

Bomba (2.35). Giant mound of mashed potato(?) with the same spicy brava sauce. (I was letting my friend choose most of the dishes that night, so I just went along with the startch fest..)

Croquetas de Pescado y Marisco (1.45 piece) Well fried and tasty

Chipirones a la Malaguena (11.50). Delicate in size and delicately fried, these baby squid were delicious and stack up very well against the countless versions of this dish I have had in the past month or two.

Montadito de Madagascar (about 1.50). Dessert. This was toasted bread topped with melted chocolate, olive oil, and fleur de sel. Decadent.

With our parade of dishes, we drank an excellent cava, from chardonnay and pinot noir; it is one of two cavas available by the glass and appears at the top of the wine list.
Next time I would sample some of the meat dishes, and the foie, which looked excellent. Also tempting were the carpaccio of tuna that was enjoyed by my neighbor!

The bill totalled 46 euro for two persons. Friendly place. Excellent food. I would not trek across the city to go there, though.


My last visit to Barcelona was about 11 years ago. Before I left on that trip, I was shopping in a grocery store in New York City--Fairway--and I ran into one of the store's managers, who had just returned from Barcelona. I asked his advice on where to eat (this was before I discovered Chowhound) and he told me: "I have two words for you: Cal Pep."
I ate quite a few meals at Cal Pep on that trip and was swept away by both the frenzied but congenial atmosphere and the food. So it was with trepidation that I took the walk last night, arriving about 7pm, a half hour before opening time, to be assured of getting a seat when the place opened at 7:30pm. By the time the restaurant opened, there were about 6 others waiting. All of these people were, naturally, tourists.

We were shown to seats at the end of the bar, towards the rear dining room. I was sad to see that Owner Pep Manubens not only looked much older (I seem to remember reading that he had been quite ill a few years back) but that he now supervised the cooking rather than tend the stove himself.

There is no menu at Cal Pep; servers will ask if you want them to prepare a tasting of various tapas. My advice here is to choose your own, as we did. Diners seated next to us let Pep choose their dishes and they did not receive the ones I would have chosen, by a long shot..

The dish I remembered so glowingly from my last trip had been the tallerines, or tiny clams as big as my fingernail. These are prepared with wine, olive oil, a small amount of garlic, and parsley. A standard preparation, perhaps, but the results are stellar and I could have happily eaten 5 orders of these little creatures. That night at Cal Pep, we opted to do a tasting of three types of mollusks: tallerines, berberechos, and another type of clam that the staff called simply "almejas;" I think these are properly known in Spain as "cloisses."

Tallerines (10.55 euro). Stellar. Essential. Lick-the-shells good. Favorite dish of the night, and of the week so far.

Berberechos (12.70) Similar sauce but with pimenton instead of parsley. Excellent.
Again, a simple preparation that let the product shine.

Almejas/Cloisses (a bit larger than tallerines) Again, a simple sauce with bits of ham added. I preferred the tallerines but these were very good.

Pa amb Tomaquet (here it was called Pa de Coca, but it did have a faint whisper of tomato) (at 3.15 euro, the price seems quite high for this toasted bread staple of Catalunya)

White Botifarra (signature Catalan sausage) with port glaze served with small white beans; quite tasty but I wished their had been more than a bare drizzle of the sweet glaze. (11.90)

Dessert: Very good Crema Catalana with a prounounced aroma of smoke, which I liked.
With four glasses of house cava, and one small water, the bill totalled 69.98 euro.

The restaurant looked the same as I had remembered, and my the time we left about 
9:30, every seat was taken and there were hopeful diners waiting behind many of the bar seats. The crowd was a mix of foreigners and Spaniards and we were fortunate enough to be seated neat to an amiable restaurant guy from Melbourne who kindly allowed us to taste (well, I ate most of them) his order of pimientos de Padron. He told us that these Gaician green peppers are now grown in Australia, and I have seen them in NYC farmer's markets. If you have not tried them, Cal Pep does a commendable version that I recommend trying.

All in all, a very good dinner; simple food done well. Many diners were enjoying mixed fish fries and the fried artichokes, as they are reputed to be fry masters here. I suspect, though, that the same food might perhaps be available at other simple market-driven spots around the city where one need not endure the ritual of arriving at 7pm to be assured of a seat. (There is a cozy stone-walled dining room at the rear of the bar that accepts bookings)


This was the best meal of our trip thus far (too be surpassed only by dinner at Cinc Sentits a few days later) and was, in a word: thrilling!

Dishes were so complex, and so delicious, that I soon abandoned my quest to note exact descriptions of each course. Please forgive any slight errors. The restaurant is small, with perhaps 10 tables set in a rather stark, white, black and red contemporary dining room.

Two of us opted for one Tasting Menu (half-portions of three menu courses, plus cheese and dessert, an excellent value at 48euro) and one Chef's Daily Menu consisting of normal portions of two courses, plus dessert, 25 euro). We were showered with two amuse gueule and one sherbert as well.

The first amuse was an intensely flavored and delightful cold pea soup with berberecho, ham, and "agua de mar." Second, tallarines de sepia, a sort of fettucine of squid, on a base of slivered green beans, with specks of black truffle, oyster sauce, and a nut viniagrette. Both outstanding.

Service is relaxed and friendly, but competent, and wait staff speak English; there is also a menu in English.

My Tasting Menu began with a smashing and updated version of the classic Pulpo a la Brasa, served here with Romesco. Two hefty chunks of octopus artfully arranged on top of a curlicue of the flame-hued Romesco. Yes!!

My fish course, again from the Tasting Menu, maintained the heights of the previous dishes: San Pedro (San Pietro) in a pool of artichoke puree punctuated with dots of black caviar from the Val Arran in the Pyrenees. The fish wore a shawl of cansallada, a Catalan pork product often described as similar to bacon.

My next dish elevated me to the stratosphere: A cube of tender suckling pig with crackling skin topped with slices of black truffle and served with a sauce of ceps and a mound of "frozen dust of ceps," and a slash of a reduction of milk (!!) One of the best dishes I've enjoyed in Spain this year. Or any year! Actually, one of the best dishes of the past year!

After this, a mint "mojito" sherbert with a touch of rum.

And then: A generous cheese course with a number of selections from Catalunya and the Pyrenees, along with Taleggio and a blue, and a cube of membrillo.
Bread here--three types are offered--is excellent; both Catalan Arbequina oil and Picual from Jean, are offered for dipping.

To close: A light, frothy, semi-liquid confection of passion fruit, dried apricots, and tea
(the seeds of the maracuya provided a wonderful textural component in this swirl of sweet deliciousness)

A simply outstanding dinner and an astounding bargain at 48 euro.

My friend's 3-course meal was also excellent, if less thrilling: The first course after the amuse was a Carpaccio of prawn in a mussel puree, with batons of the Catalan root vegetable, chirivia (pastinaca sativa), or parsnip.

She was given a choice of fish or meat, and chose the latter: Two double lamb rib chops served rare and accompanied by a blueberry sauce. The meat was excellent but the dish was less exciting than the others.

To close the three-course dinner, my friend was given a dessert plate that included a brownie, with panna cotta and two ovals of gelato.

We began our dinner with glasses of cava and continued with a red from Priorat, the esteemed Catalan wine region. Both were chosen by our server.

At 101 euro for two persons, including four glasses of wine and a bottle of water, dinner at Hisop was an incredible value.


I snagged a reservation online two weeks previous to our arrival (an admission that drew the envy of a few food-obsessed locals) to this new venture helmed by Ferran and Albert Adria and the Iglesias brothers of Rias de Galicia fame.. A.Adria apparently left Inopia in the hands of his very capable partners at that nearby eatery (which is now called Lolita) to put a "low cost branch of El Bulli in Barcelona."

"I don't want to open the best tapas bar in the world, but instead, a tapas bar for the whole world," he had been quoted as saying. He has certainly opened a great tapas bar, as we soon learned!

Tickets is located in an original threatre and cabaret district of the city, the Parel.lel, hence the theme of the restaurant, with servers dressed up as movie ushers. A top-hatted and coat-tailed emcee at the front door checks reservations and lowers the red velvet rope for the fortunate few.

Tickets is vast, with several food stations and seating at tables or along the various bars which wear a seamless white sheathing reminiscent of Corian. There is at least one vast tv screen for sports events, continuing the entertainment theme.

The real entertainment here, however, is watching the staff compose the concoctions that will end up on your plate! The folded paper menu, emblazoned with the names of the restaurant's sponsors, which include but are not limited to Coco-Cola, Lavazza, Moet & Chandon, and Joselito (sponsor's names also appear on the staff uniform sleeves), contains a long list of plates divided into categories including: El Picoteo, Tapitas del Mar, Los Ibericos Joselito, Tapas del Mar, and Los Xuxis.

We were seated at the bar near the entrance and were attended by an enthusiastic young server. We had ample chance to ask questions of the staff behind the bar who assemble the plates, but do not do any actual cooking there. Guided by Manel, our server, this is what we ate:

Las Aceitunas-S Variedad Verdial de Tickets: 7.10 euro. A jar that looked like olives in oil and citrus peels was places before us, but when Manel scooped the olives onto our spoons for eating, we realized that they were not actual olives. We were instructed to eat these in one bit. What followed was an explosion of flavor as the "olive," which was actually composed of some kind of seaweed if I heard correctly, exploded in our mouths, releasing an explosion of complex flavor.
"So this is what molecular gastronomy is about!"

Next arrived Jamon de Toro: impossibly thin squares of cured ventresca "painted with the fat of Iberian ham," and arrayed on waxed paper. 12.50 euro Exquisite!

Tartare de Tomate served on "pan crujente," or cracker thin squares of bread, was like no other tomato tartare I had ever tried. Simply the essence of tomato, squared!

Equally fabulous was an artichoke-shaped crock filled with artichoke hearts (probably cooked sous vide) and scattered with crunchy and imcredibly flavorful "jamon crujiente" 7.80 euro

Mousse de Ajoblanco de Almendras con uvas y Pedro Jimenez was an impossibly light and frothy take on the cold Andalucian summer soup. Outstanding! 4.80euro

Pipas de Conejo with allioli espumoso was a mound of miniature rabbit ribs, perfectly fried and accompanied by a frothy allioli. 11.50

Coca de panceta adobada. What I thought was a take off on pulpo alla Gallega was, instead, folded slices of Joselito panceta dotted with pimenton, seared with a torch, and served atop pan crujiente. 3.40 euro If you like lard, you will love this luscious mouthful!

Airbaguette de panceta Iberica Joselito brought more panceta, this time wrapped around a hollow mini "baguette" 3.40 euro

My neighbor was kind enough to allow me a healthy taste of her Bacalao con nectar de tomate which was dotted with black olives that are like no black olive I'd ever tasted. This dish went out to many diners and for good reason! 3.40 euro.

With water, two glasses of Torello rose cava, and a scoop of vanilla gelato imbued with ginger and cinammon, the total bill for two was 85 euro. Large appetites would need to sample many more dishes. We heard servers speaking English to other diners, so non-Spanish speakers should not fear!

Albert Adria was in attendance, and working very hard during what was only the second night that Tickets had been open to the public.

The gin bar, Xixbar, around the corner on Rocafort, 19 is a cozy spot,with good music, for a cocktail or wine before or after dinner.


I was determined to sample calcots during this trip. I had been to Barcelona before but always missed the Jan-March season for this much-beloved variety of winter onion, which resemble the leeks that we have back in the US and are sold in large bundles here in the markets. Although there are restaurants in the city that offer calcots, I wanted to try them grilled over a wood fire in a more rustic setting.

About noon, we set off on the FGC train from Placa Catalunya, getting down about 15 minutes later at Peu de Funicular, north of Sarria on the same train line. There is a funicular here that whisks passengers up the steep Vallvidrera hill to the neighborhood that houses the restaurant.

Unfortunately, the person who answered the phone at the restaurant had assured me that it was only 10 minutes from the train stop to the Can Marti. Did she think I was driving??

She also neglected to mention the funicular!

What ensued was a STEEP walk, that so depleted us that after about 20 minutes of panting, I literally planted myself in the narrow road and flagged down a passing workman in a truck and begged him to give us a lift up the hill.
Can Marti sits amidst private houses in what looks like an upscale suburb of Barcelona; request a window seat and the entire city will spread before you, with the Monastery of Pedralbes in the foreground. That is, if you have a sunny day, which we did not. It was cold, drizzly, and a bit foggy.

So the view was compromised, but the food? I loved this place! It would not have been more rustic if it had been in the Cerdanya. The restaurant appears to be a small private home, with a glassed-in dining room at the rear and a large brick grill area set into the back of the house. Piles of wood are stacked everywhere.

The menu is in Catalan, but they do have one in English as well. (But not in Castillian for some reason!) No English is spoken.

Set menus are offered (including a calcotada feast for 30 euro that included a parade of grilled meats, wine, etc) but we chose from the a la carte offerings:

Everything was grilled over the open fire.

Artichoke. (6 euro) delicious!

Torrades amb tomaquet. (here they bring you the toasted bread, along with a few small tomatoes and a garlic clove; oil and salt are already on the table; you make your own pa amb tomaquet)
1.10 euro each)

Calcots. A bundle of about a dozen, along with a bowl of piquant romesco for dipping (one ingredient is secret so I could not get the recipe). 8 euro. Incredibly sweet!! I Loved these charred beauties!! Bibs are supplied but prepare to get very messy!

Mongetas, or white beans 2.90 euro. Excellent--with a crunch on the outside that might have come from bread crumbs.

1/4 rabbit 5.50. My friend thought this gamier than those in the US; I liked it; portion is for small eaters, though.

Costelles de xai, or lamb ribs 14.50 euro. Tiny ribs and one other part of the lamb. Tasty, with char.

With water and house red wine, plus two cafes, the total was 45.80 euro for two.

If you are here in calcot season and you want to sample true Catalan food, I would consider this 
restaurant an essential stop on an eating tour. The entire trip from downtown takes under an hour. Do not miss the funicular at the train station. Make sure to sit in the second or third car of the train so you do not miss the short platform at Peu de Funicular.

An afternoon I will not soon forget!


This miniscule Poble Sec tapas bar serving cucina del autor has been written up so often that I will add only a few comments, based on our short visit.

First of all, this place is tiny! Think the size of a Manhattan living room, and I am not talking about the Dakota here! Picturesque does not begin to describe the surroundings. Every surface from bar to ceiling, and in some places from floor to ceiling, is lined with shelves brimming with every imaginable type of spirits, wines, and vinegars. (My search for E. Lustau 1/24 vinagre de Jerez has ended right here; 11 euro; I had been told earlier in the week that this is no longer in production, so I felt I had scored quite a coup)

By the time we arrived at about 8pm, the place was tightly packed with a mixture of what appeared to be locals, along with a contingent of youthful Americans. The barman, who I assume is the owner, remained unflappable despite the heaving crowd, and accorded us a very warm welcome.
We drank two rose cavas.

The round of torta del Casar on the bar solved the question of what to sample first. We were given healthy dollops of this Extremaduran cheese, considered among Spain's finest, topped by glazed chestnuts, on rounds of toasted bread. Simple yet masterful. A truly fabulous combination of flavors.

Next and last, was the pork terrine, also served on toast rounds and topped by a tangle of pickled vegetables and a slash of balsamic reduction.

After that, the din was just too much for me to bear.

Total cost for the two cavas and the two tapas was about 14 euro. All food is cold; choose from the bar or look around and see what your very close neighbors are enjoying. Much in evidence were combinations of smoked fish including salmon, and the canned shellfish for which the country is so famed.

LOLITA TAPERIA (formerly Inopia)

After our two tapas at Quimet i Quimet, described above, we followed Av. Paral.lel for about 20 minutes, passing Tickets and turning right on Calle Tamarit. At Tamarit, #104, Lolita is the new name of the celebrated tapas bar Inopia which shuttered last year causing great dismay. I was assured by several people that the food remains much the same as before the name change; one of the original partners remains. Albert Adria was the other original partner and he now helms Tickets, a block away.

A "doorman" in Batman Joker makeup drops a red velvet rope to admit diners here. One bite of the food, however, and all such silliness is forgiven. Since we had snacked at Quimet, we sampled only a couple of dishes but here again, we were very impressed by the quality of the food:

Mini-Burger--Tiny and delectable; a welcome change after all the seafood (4.50euro)

Fried artichokes--the best of the week; meaty and impeccably fried (5.90)

Pineapple with lime Zest and Molasses may not sound like an exciting dessert, right? WRONG!
This was an absolutely smashing combination of flavors! The waiter assured me that they did not concoct the molasses that was drizzled on top of the prettily cut fruit, but that this was something that they,and presumably anyone, could purchase. (4.50 euro) I have had some success in replicating this dish at home, although my pineapples are cut into chunks, rather than the pretty boat turned out by the Lolita crew.

Total with water only: 16.80 euro.


For our last night, a Saturday, we elected to return again to the world of Catalan traditional food. I had received a recommendation from a local wine person for this restaurant, located not far from Sants train station and NW of Placa Espana in the up-and-coming Hostafrancs district which had just been featured in the local Time Out as one of the city’s “hot” new neighborhoods.

The descent of a flight of steps from the main street, Calle Sants, brings one to a neighborhood of crooked lanes and tiny houses that still bears the resemblance to its village roots. A giant wood-burning grill greets diners at the entrance to the pair of rustic dining rooms; there is also a vine-covered terrace for summer dining.

La Parra is a formerCatalan coaching inn and, together with Tickets, illustrates the vast breath of the food scene in this compelling city, with Tickets, perhaps representing the future and La Parra rooted in the past.

The menu is in Catalan, which bears enough resemblance to Spanish that I could make out much of it, but fortunately, we had the assistance of our waiter from France who also spoke good English. The menu here is an amplified version of the one we encountered at Can Marti a few days before: Grilled meats and vegetables; bread with various toppings from the familiar tomato to butifarra and even fish; traditional dishes cooked in the oven. Meat and fish were much in evidence and there are also many vegetable dishes.

We began with 1 "pa de pages tomat," (1.65) and 1 pan with butifarra negra or blood sausage, arrayed on the toasted bread along with cooked onions. (6 euro).

We continued with an order of calcots (13 euro) which were burned to the crisp. The waiter noticed this and brought us a second platter which were unfortunately equally charred. He explained that since we were eating on the early side, at 9pm, there were flames at the grill instead of the ash that the calcots demand. Maybe they should have been more prepared; we had booked the day before!

The grilled artichokes (2 for 8 euro) were outstanding; I could eat almost the entire choke save a few outer leaves.

For the meat course: Lamb chops (3 for 12 euro): Tiny but tasty, if probably not the finest quality meat.

Roasted goat (cabrit): Three cuts were available and we chose the ribs (18.50 euro).

Tasty enough but a far cry from the delectable grilled goat I had devoured in the Piedmont in Italy.
(I apologize in advance for making this comparison)

We drank beer and local house rose. (Sold by the glass, but a new bottle was opened at the table; this was quite good but I did not note the name) After a discussion with the waiter, the charge for the calcots was removed from the bill and we paid 51.45 euro.

Address: Joanot Martorell, 3
How to get there: Metro: L1 Hostafrancs
Opening hours: Tuesday-Friday: 8:30pm-12am Saturday: 2pm-4:30pm and 8:30pm-12am Sunday: 2pm-4:30pm
Telephone(s): 93 332 5134


This casual taperia just off Passeig de Gracia and north of Placa Catalunya had been on my radar all week and we finally stopped in for a lunchtime snack at the end of our week in the city. Although we sampled only a miniscule fraction of the menu, even those few dishes were enough to convince me of the talent of the kitchen at this bustling, ferociously popular eatery.

There is a printed menu, but the daily specials are chalked on the blackboards, in Catalan and Spanish.

Patatas bravavs (3.50 euro). Impreccably fried with lashings of alioli and spicy red sauce, these were the best potatoes of our trip. Essential!

Sepionetas a la parilla (16 euro). During two visits to Spain this year so far, I had enjoyed many squid dishes in several regions. These little creatures, lapped with the familiar parsley-flecked sauce, were at the top of the list. Beautiful presentation on the plate. I am craving these as I write this, at 5:40am!

McFoie Burger (8 euro). Sometimes you just crave a burger, right? This one, pressed down on the grill and with foie embedded in the meat grind as well as in the accompanying alioli, satisfied that craving and generated a new hunger that I fear will not be easily quenched. Simply outstanding.

With two bottles of water, the check totalled 31 euro.

Tapac24 remains open "sin interrupcion" from 8am to midnight. Prepare for a packed house and seating either along the bar or at high tables in the small dining area. I would recommend trying to dine at off-peak hours, but even during the crowded lunch rush, service was efficient and welcoming. Perfect for single diners; less good for large groups.
They also have a few outdoor tables.

This will be on my list for the next visit, as will Carles Abellan's more formal Comerc 24.

And there you have it! Please feel free to ask any and all questions!

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