Saturday, January 21, 2012

Eating Out In Barcelona...

Ryan  has  been putting me to absolute shame when it comes to eating.  After a few unlucky meals to ring in the new year, I have approached new foods a bit more gingerly as of late, a disposition that was only made worse after reading George Orwell's, Down and Out in Paris and London.  
However, as soon as we arrived in Spain, all my careful eating habits were lost.
You can't just come to Spain and not eat all black footed pig, spicy chorizo, million different kinds of mushrooms, or slimy anchoives piled in front of you.
Before leaving California, Ryan was given a list of places to eat in Barcelona by Mark, a long time California chef, who currently resides in the kitchen at The Penny Ice Creamery.  Marks been around:  he's worked for Alice Waters at Chez Panisse (where he likes to reminisce about the time Alice let him start a restaurant baseball team and embroidered their caps with a flourishing P), for Wolfgang Puck, and a number of other notable names in the industry.  So, you can trust that this guy knows what he's talking about when he gave us a restaurant guide for his favorite haunts in Barcelona.
Here are his suggestions, complete with his voice (I pipe in every one in a while in italics).

El Xampanyet ~ Cava bar right near the Picasso museo
Carrer de Montcada 22
+ 34 93 319 70 03 Metro L4 Jaume 1
Closed Sunday – Monday
One of my favorite bars, great little tapas and dirt cheap Spanish champagne - get there right at opening at noon to snag a table or you'll spent your entire meal standing! Try peppers stuffed with cheeses, salt cod with black olive or dry-aged Manchego.

TapaÇ24 ~ tapas 5 blocks south of our apartment off the Passeig de Gracia
269 Carrer de la Diputacio
Metro L2, L3, L4 Passeig de Gracia
Open throughout the day 8-midnight, closed Sundays
Another of my favorites, service can be brusque with non Spanish speakers but the chow is awesome. The truita (Spanish tortilla), gambas, bikini (Iberico ham sandwich), patatas bravas, korean bbq wings (I shit you not), Bomba (deep-fried meatballs) and the chocolate with olive oil and sea salt. Just thinking about this place makes me want to book a plane ticket!    Oh my goodness, those bikinis aren't just ham sandwiches!  They're iberico ham with black truffle paste, pressed and grilled with manchego cheese...oh, oh, oh, oh!

Bar Pinotxo
91 La Rambla - right inside the entrance to the Mercat de la Boqueria
Open daily 7am-5pm
The best for cheap rustic eats, counter seating only, order directly from the cooks or Joan, no printed menu. Items not to miss: chiperones (baby squid), butifarra ( grilled suasage), lobster, cigrons (chickpeas with blood sausage), navajes (razor clams), exquixada (salt cod salad) to name a few... Great place for breakfast, Spanish style: pan tomaquet, chuchos  y cortados!  I came here in November too, on the recommendation of Chef Jami Cakes, and was only too happy to go back. Elbow your way up to the counter for very limited seating between tourists and locals alike.  Breakfast here is fantasic (we went three times this week), and the staff is great- they even drew me a map to the place they get their haircut so I could get a trim too!

Cal Pep
Placa de las Ollas, 8 - just a few streets south of the Picaso Museo in the very cute la Ribera hood
closed Sundays dinner from 7:30-11:30
Long lines, counter seating only and brusque service, but... Incredible seafood: roast monkfish, fried calamari, tiny squid, sepia (cuttlefish) a la plancha, tiny fried fish - eat heads and all, gambas (super sweet prawns), cigales (even sweeter langoustines), and this dish I can't remember the name of but it's super tiny fried fish served with a deep-fried egg - crazy good.  Arguably the best seafood restaurant in the entire world (and another Chef Jami recommendation).  There is no menu but if you give your server your budget, they'll start bringing you plates and plates of seafood.  My favorite are the langoustines Mark recommends, served with an onion sauce, and the roasted monk fish, my new favorite fish.

Not a Mark-recommended place, but an essential Barcelona spot none the less,
El Champagneria
Carrer de la Reina Christina, 7  
Monday through Saturday 9:30-10:30
No seating room here, only hoards of people squished together delicately handling glasses of pink cava and eating greasy hamburgesas and chorizo bocadillas.  It's an odd sounding combo at first, but with champagne served for less than a Euro a glass, it's brilliant, and I'll have eleven thanks.
We did have a funny experience here once, when, during a tasting frenzy, we asked our server what his favorite dish was.  His response:  not anything from here.
So, though it may not be the most gourmet of places, the ambiance and experience is unbeatable.

There you have it, the best of the best in Barcelona, with recommendations from people who really know their stuff.  
¡Buen provecho!