Destination: Spain: Barcelona
Alkimia’s chef, Jordi Vilà, is another follower of Ferran Adrià. Minimalist decor allows guests to focus on Vilà’s deconstructed dishes, including pa amb tomàquet, a typical Catalan dish of white bread rubbed with tomato pulp and olive oil, served in a shot glass; bacallà (salt cod) with eggplant and blood-orange foam; and traditional fried eggs and Mallorcan sausage served with preserved quinces.
In Catalan, Cinc Sentits means “five senses,” and indeed this restaurant appeals to all of them. “Food is the star, but we also spent a lot of time conceiving the design, music, light and atmosphere,” says Canadian-born Catalan chef Jordi Artal. The entrance façade is half glass, half wood, and the white, minimalist interior is long and rectangular, with beige porcelain-tiled floors. The chef’s menu, which changes frequently, is always a culinary adventure. A recent example: dates, mint and mascarpone wrapped in jamón; a wonderfully textured tapioca-and-caviar dish; and an incredibly tender beef fillet with wild mushrooms.
More of a restaurant than a tapas bar, Comerç 24 has a menu influenced by the mad-scientist cuisine of Ferran Adrià (the three-Michelin-star chef of El Bulli). Chef and owner Carles Abellan is an Adrià protégé, and at this hip designer space in El Born, the presentation of the dishes is equally memorable: smoked and pickled fish comes in custom-designed metal cans; yolk foam and truffles float in delicate eggshells.
Editor’s Note: I recently dined at Carles Abellan’s super chic 1-star Michelin restaurant in the hip El Born neighborhood. To get the full experience, order the tasting menu and reserve a table by the kitchen where you can watch the chefs at work. Closed Sundays.
Chef Robert Gelonch, who honed his molecular gastronomic skills working at El Bulli, has now opened his own bi-level restaurant in the off-the-beaten Eixample Dreta neighborhood. The menu features inventive creations such as carrots with “nitro popcorn,” which arrives at the table still smoking and has a delectable melt-in-your-mouth consistency. The 10-course tasting menu is the best way to sample them all. Not-to-be missed is the sous-vide suckling pig, which, though not on the tasting menu, is definitely worth ordering.
The Mandarin Oriental’s two Michelin-starred restaurant highlights neo-traditional Catalan cuisine. Whether you opt for the “micro-menu” (a five dish tasting menu, plus desert) or order à la carte, the culinary team’s—world renowned chef Carme Ruscalleda is joined in the kitchen by her son, Raül Balam—creations are as exquisite as the dining room’s gold leaf ceilings. The desserts, which are made-to-order and must be selected at the same time as the rest of the meal, include whimsical creations like the “New Pajamas,” a combination of custard, liquid pineapple, peach bonbons and ice cream.
This restaurant, which was awarded a Michelin star in 2005, is located in the fashionable Omm hotel and run by the three Roca brothers, whose El Cellar de Can Roca restaurant near Girona is considered one of Spain’s finest gourmet destinations. Joan oversees the modern cuisine, Josep edits the extensive wine menu, and Jordi crafts such desserts as “Trip to Havana” (a rum sponge cake with lime soup, peppermint granita and cane sugar). Even the hand-painted plates are unique; some of them were created by local celebrities. For a sampling of the Rocas’ signature dishes, order the chef’s menu, which might include saffron-spiced scorpion fish and baby goat roasted in honey and rosemary served on goat’s milk foam.
Martin Berasategui’s two Michelin-starred restaurant in the Hotel Condes de Barcelona is named after the Basque town of Lasarte, where the chef opened his first restaurant. The intimate dining room, which seats just 30 people, means impeccable service during lunch and dinner. The lunchtime tasting menu features decadent, well-prepared fare like ox filet served with potatoes a bacon mille-feuille and foie gras sauce.
The elegant and modern dining room tucked away in the Ohla Hotel’s upper lobby provides the perfect setting for Michelin-starred chef Xavier Franco’s haute Catalan cuisine. The menu changes according to the season, but you can expect to find adventurous, rich offerings like cannelloni of roasted duck with an emulsion of foie gras, truffle, pear and pine nuts, or a roasted milk-fed veal shank for-two served with mashed potatoes and green beans. Dinner tasting menus range in price but the weekday lunch prix-fixe is a great deal.
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