Pakta, Nikkei Cuisine, Poble Sec

PaktaMy two favourite Japanese restaurants in London are Dinings and Yashin (in that order).  Both are generous with the citrus and easy on the soy.   I know that the executive chef at Dinings (Masaki Sugisaki ) worked at Nobu and that Nobu Matsuhisa was heavily influenced by Nikkei cuisine (a symbiosis of Japanese and Peruvian food).  So it is with very high expectations that I walk into Pakta on a sunny Saturday afternoon.    That and it’s taken me over a month (as usual) to get a table at this Adria brothers spot (no it’s not your imagination, they do seem to own every restaurant worth going to in Barcelona).  
The starterThere are two prix fix menus to choose from: the Fujiyama (€90 VAT included) and the Machu Picchu (€120 VAT included).  We opt for the latter and begin with the Honzen Ryori.  Which is an elaborately arranged tray of 5 small dishes the like of ‘Avocado tofu with sea urchin, yuzu and wasabi’ and ‘sweet corn cream with caviar’.  There are different spoons for different dishes and an order in which the 5 dishes should be eaten.  There are so many instructions to follow that our server uses a baton to point to the dishes as she explains what’s what, what’s first and with what – oh and don’t eat the tuft of leaves which is just a tuft of leaves. Read more of this post

Ramen-Ya Hiro, Ramen, La Dreta de L’Eixample

IMG_5399There I am, in Berlin, going on and on about how I love little portions of food (tapas, mezze) and I finally get to a place where that’s what it’s all about and I find myself wanting a big bowl of something.  Ramen will do quite nicely thank you, especially if it’s going to stand up to Cocolo in Berlin & Koya in LondonRamen-Ya Hiro As with most places I favor, Ramen-Ya Hiro is tiny and takes no reservations; which inevitably leads to lining up for a table. Which (also like most places I favor) is small, and cramped, with help yourself cutlery or in this case chopsticks.  The eclectic music blares – it must be what the kitchen likes to listen.  It’s an open kitchen with two bandannad chefs welding ladles like they are flag semaphores, dishing out steaming bowls of broth. Read more of this post

Oriol Balaguer, Confectionery, Sarrià – Sant Gervasi

oriol balaguerAfter this post, I am going to make it my mission to keep the blog Adrià free for a while.  But for now, let’s talk about Oriol Balaguer.  Born to a chocolatier father and graduating to the famed kitchens of El Bulli before being named (at the tender young age of 23) Best Artisan Confectioner in Spain.  My 4-year-old daughter and I are here today with a view to getting our hands on the chocolate cake in eight chocolate textures. 8 textures chocolate cakeThe store is elegant, the thick tinted glass, the brushed aluminum frames- it’s more Balenciaga then Confectioner.  And that is the point, as we are about to pay €35 for a very petite, very shiny cake.   Read more of this post

Bodega 1900, Vermouth Bar by Albert Adrià, Sant Antoni

Bodega 1900Albert Adrià must have a very happy bank manager. Most of his venues are in the Sant Antoni district where the majority of the shops are shuttered with once hopeful (now weathered) ‘for rent’ signs.  Right across from Bodega 1900 is the popular Tickets bar and 41º.  Which is convenient as during my meal there, chefs arrive ferrying gastronorms of marinated tuna from the bigger kitchens across the street.

It’s a charming little space.  And by little, I mean tiny.  A front room and a back room.  The front room being an uneven split in favour of Bodega 1900- between Bodega1900 staff and customers.  To wit: Bodega is allocated a cold station running the length of one wall underneath swinging Joselito hams and salamis, an ordering station where waiters congregate to tap in orders (they don’t have individual hand-held units) and there is a man with a clipboard (really?) waiting to greet at the front door.  Customers get a scattering of petite round tables, pushed into corners and up against poles or some bar stools against a sliver of a bar.  In the bustling back room, customers have slightly more space which they share with a bar and a warm kitchen.   

Tomato Salad, Vermouth, Mackerel at Bodega1900The idea at Bodega 1900, is to have a little something to go with your Vermouth, beer or cava (little because after your Vermouth and snack, you would be expected to continue on to lunch as is tradition).  The somethings turn out to be extremely simple.  A tomato salad for €5.90 where I am served a skinned tomato, that comes in deceptive rough and ready chunks.  I say deceptive because the care that goes into the slicing and individually salting and peppering each wedge borders on the absurd.  The identical slices of smoked mackerel receive a similar treatment, being laid out in parallel lines, a flake of salt bestowed upon each tender slice with a final flourish of a few drops of oil (possibly Oro Bailen) dispensed from a pipette.

I order one dish from the days menu, sweet peas with mushrooms and morcilla.  The peas are so immature and succulent they reminded me of the vacuum packed  suckling pigs that lined the chiller cabinets all through the Christmas period. Read more of this post

Caravelle, Coffee and Food, Raval

CaravelleIs it the lack of Australians or the lack of hipsters in Barcelona that can explain away the absence of 3rd wave coffee? Because samples from both these groups are present in Caravelle, the second best place to get a coffee in Barcelona after Cafe El Magnifico. They use a La Marzocco machine and source their coffee from a small roastery called Right Side (girls – I think you should click on their link just to get an eyeful of coffee-taster/roaster-in-lilac-shirt.)  Their flat white is the real deal while their version of a cappuccino is made with rather more milk then I like (same like the flat white in fact but with only one shot of espresso) and comes with a sprinkling of cocoa powder.  

Coffee at Caravelle Read more of this post

Gluten Free Orange and Almond Cake with Chocolate Ganache

Gluten free orange and almond cake with chocolate ganacheThe gluten-free part is irrelevant for me.  I am one of those people who has no food intolerances (also known as a European).  I consume dairy, eggs, gluten, saturated fat, in short: everything and have never been tempted into a purging of my diet in an attempt to achieve clarity of mind, gain energy or a slimmer figure (isn’t that what coffee is for?).  So yes-that it’s ‘gluten free’ is more informative than anything.

We used to make this cake at Melrose and Morgan, the girls from Triyoga up in Primrose Hill would come, perch on the corner of something small and daintily nibble on it (imagine a svelte glossy haired gerbil if you will) while they sipped on something seemingly virtuous and always caffeine free (chamomile tea, fresh mint tea, hot water with a slice of lemon-I could never figure out how much to charge for that?)

It was the one cake pastry loved to have on the cake rota because it was easy.  Boil some oranges, bung everything but the kitchen sink into a food processor and whiz.  When the kitchen timer went off to say it was ready, they could let it languish – oh up to 15 minutes more since this is one cake you can’t over bake (the almonds and orange keep it moist for an exceptionally long time).  In fact, a one day old orange and almond cake is almost better than one that is freshly baked.I never get sick of my (rented) tangerine treeI liked this cake a lot but it was a bit like that guy I always hung out with as a teen that was a good friend but not exciting enough to be elevated to the status of boyfriend.  And then I went to Sweet Things in Primrose Hill and all of a sudden, the orange cake went all Patrick Dempsey in Can’t Buy Me Love on me (it pains me that there are those of you who don’t know to what I am referring here let’s just say, the cake went turbo and that Patrick Dempsey was not always Dr. Derek Shepherd.) Read more of this post

La Pastisseria, Classic Pastry, Eixample

La PastisseriaLook at this cake vitrine.  It’s gorgeous right? And those pastries, look at the shine on them. It’s the best rated restaurant in Barcelona on Tripadvisor: 65 reviews of 5 out of 5 stars.  Impressive.  All those reviewers can’t be wrong?

Well that depends on what you go for.  If you are taken in by bells and whistles – this place is for you.  Similarly, if you think the pulled sugar sculptures in Kings of Pastry were awesome and you would display most of them in your living room, well then, this is also for you.  If on the other hand you (as I) are more enamoured by the dogged loaf cake, be it a slice of Madeira cake embellished with a few glacé cherries or a slice of Matcha green tea cake with some chocolate chips running through it – then you might find La Pastisseria isn’t the best thing since sliced bread. Read more of this post


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