These two restaurants were recommended to us by Jordi, the chef at CincSentits. He felt they represented the freshest takes on traditional Catalan dishes while implementing new cooking techniques and inventive ingredients. We had degustation menus at both establishments and were thoroughly entranced for different reasons at each.
Alkimia’s food was understated and elegant, using the freshest and finest quality ingredients.
Its dining room is austere, dressed in white and ecru tones, with virtually no art and no music. I would suppose this is to not take away from the food being presented. It works, even though we felt a little manipulated, like our attention spans were so low that we could not look at great art and eat great food at the same time or that some earth tones to warm up the place a bit may make us too comfortable . . . whatever. The first highlight of our eight courses was a Cantabrian anchovy and roasted vegetable salad with truffle butter. The anchovies were the best I have ever encountered and can’t imagine tasting a more perfect filet. The anchovy appetizer alone at Alkimia is twenty-seven euros; that’s how seriously they take the quality of their anchovies. The other highlight was chicken cannelloni with almond béchamel and apple salad, which was beautifully presented on a gorgeous plate. The chicken was full flavored and tasted like it had been cooked confit style, and the “pasta” was made, we think, with chicken skin—very cool. The whole meal was a great experience with very professional, standoffish service.
Our favorite cutting-edge meal was at Comerç24. This beautiful, modern restaurant is owned and run by Carlos Abellán. Abellán, a super star chef in his own right, cut his culinary teeth in the kitchen of über-chef Ferran Adrià at his restaurant el Bulli. If you are not familiar with Adrià’s cuisine, he started (if not invented) the whole molecular gastronomy movement. Because of his experience, we were expecting some very unusual food combinations and presentations . . . we were not disappointed. One of the highlights of this twelve-course tasting menu was chilled soy consommé with mussels and flowers. This dish was surprising because they tricked us into thinking it was going to be hot by using a tea pot to fill our lidded bowls and asking us to wait a few minutes before eating. We lifted the lids off the bowls and dove into an explosion of chilled flavors with lime zest, Szechuan peppercorns, and flower petals—superb! The best composed flavor we had while in Barcelona was at Comerc24; it was an egg poached in its shell and topped with Parmesan-black truffle foam and fresh black truffles. It was aromatic and luxurious, four spoonfuls of ecstasy. The final highlight I will leave you with is the grilled sirloin of beef with rose petals and fruit. This dish sounded odd to us, as we generally would not pair beef with strawberries, let alone with rose petals, but it worked beautifully with aromas of roses wafting off the plate and the salty beef offset with the sweetness of the berries. Very cool.
In closing the chapter on the contemporary food of Barcelona, it is a very exciting cuisine rooted in a deep history that lends itself to liberal improvisation, which to me is why it works so well.
My final Barcelona installment will chronicle the best overall meal, which was one of the cheapest. Plus, how paella is overrated!