Posted 13 May 2009 - 03:00 AM
Just got back from Barcelona and we had a wonderful four days there. Great weather and great food, thanks to the Mouthfuls greatest hits we visited.
Cinq Sentis was our favorite dinner of the trip, with Hisop not far behind. Both restaurants offered the local/seasonal drill, with Cinq Sentis being more conservative in its approach-- neither restaurant tried to force savory/fishy ice cream on us. My memory of Cinq Sentis is dim after all the eating and drinking we did over the subsequent days (CS was on our first, jet-lagged night), but I do remember a couple of lovely preparations featuring fresh peas, a tender, delicate baby squid dish with a saffron sauce, and a suckling pig with apples in which the pig was cooked sous vide for 24 hours and then (thankfully) roasted to produce a crisp skin. We left the place thinking it had set a very high standard for our trip. Our favorite at Hisop was a dish that sounds gimmicky: foie gras "after eight," a play on the classic mint/chocolate candies. The dish featured a seared hunk of foie, in a beef jus, with some kind of mint puree and chocolate shavings on top. I feared I'd prefer it without all that crap on it, but actually I loved it, and so did my better half. We also really enjoyed the hake dish nux mentioned above and the cheese plate was outstanding.
We also tried the much more frankly experimental Commerc 24 and unfortunately we were confronted there with a cod foam that was paired with an artichoke ice cream. We found it inedible, but that dish was the exception. I was pretty blown away by some of the other dishes, especially the consomme that contained little airy bubbles that exploded with the flavor of quail egg, parmesan, and black truffle. I also really liked the foie gras mousse paired with the duck-flavored rice.
Our fourth dinner was at Paco Meralgo, and while I agree that it's a good Sunday option I think we weren't as taken with the place as most of the mouthfuls opinion leaders seem to be. It reminded me of an American tapas restaurant. Not really a bar, as a good tapas place should be, but rather a dinner destination at which tapas happens to be what you're eating, disguised as a bar. And the food, while often well-executed, lacked much imagination or interest. The bomba was good, and we had some tasty prawns. Other items were indifferent. One octopus dish was downright poor, with tough little pieces of octopus mixed in with watery onions. Is it unfair to describe Paco Meralgo as middling standard tapas fare? It was sometimes better than that. Nice atmosphere. Boisterous. Reasonably priced.
We hit Tapac 24, Quimet & Quimet, and Bar Mut for lunch. We liked many of the greatest hits items listed above at Tapac 24-- the ham & cheese with truffle was a favorite of mine. I loved everything about Quimet & Quimet; the tiny boxy bar space, the proprietor and his little dishes of stuff, and the way he constructs little sampling plates for you. A great place to spend an hour or two on your way over to Montjuic. And we both thought Bar Mut was a great find. It was my wife's favorite place of our trip. It too is a charming bar space, with surprisingly thoughtful food. We had an absolutely delicious shrimp dish, with barely-cooked runny egg and tiny, lacy fried potatoes. And a beautiful plate of suckling pig, pressed into a rectangle with a perfect strip of crispy skin on top, served with a pile of incredibly sweet caramelized shallots. I was surprised to come back to mouthfuls and find that Wilfrid considers Bar Mut roughly comparable to Paco Meralgo; we found it to have much more to offer. It's really close to La Pedrera, too, so it's a great place to have lunch after some Gaudi.
Speaking of Gaudi, in the nearly 11 years since we last visited Barcelona the Casa Batllo opened up to visitors, and boy is it worth a visit! Great audio guide too. Thanks to Wilf for the tip about the apartment you can now see at La Pedrera. That was also nice. We were pissed when we showed up at the Sagrada Familia to find that you can no longer walk up the stairs from the entrance level and explore the towers. You are instead forced to wait in line for an elevator. Once you take the elevator up, however, you can freely walk down and around the towers, so in the end we found it to be reasonably comparable to our previous visit.
We took a day trip to Montserrat, which I don't think I've seen mentioned here. This was very easy to do and it was lots of fun. The cable car ride up from the train station is a great vertiginous thrill, and there's a long hike to the highest point in the jagged, beautiful 10 km-long formation. The hike we chose is a little more than two hours round trip-- we packed a picnic lunch from the boqueria market and ate just below the peak, then walked back down. Some sections are paved, with steps, but most of it is a nice ridge trail, advertised as strenuous but really nothing any reasonably fit person can't easily manage. There are shorter hikes if you'd prefer them, all with wonderful views, and I'm told there's also a pretty nice basilica and a choir, neither of which we got around to checking out. You see there was a long hike, as I mentioned, and then as we returned from the hike we spotted a bar and then before we knew it it was time to catch the train...
Anyway, thanks again for all the tips.