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Madrid and Barcelona, 2018

Madrid and Barcelona, 2018
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  • Madrid and Barcelona, 2018

    Post #1 - December 3rd, 2018, 8:40 am
    Post #1 - December 3rd, 2018, 8:40 am Post #1 - December 3rd, 2018, 8:40 am
    SueF and I just got back from 9 days in Madrid and Barcelona. Just a few quick generalities and observations now, I'll add more posts with pictures over the next couple days.

    #1: Spain is a great place to get drunk cheaply. Tapas bars in particular charge about 2-3.5€ by the glass, especially (but not always) items from barrels on tap. We also found a number of restaurants that include a drink in their prix fixe menus -- a half-bottle no less, in an 11€ two-course or 19€ three-course meal. Vermouth (vermut) is also popular, very sweet, served over ice, with orange rind or candied orange slice and an olive. Kind of like a cold gluwein. Cider (sidra) was a little rarer, but I did manage to get some a couple times.

    #2: One specialty of Madrid I never did get around to was Bocadillo de Calamares - fried squid sandwich. For a landlocked province, it was everywhere. I don't know how it was dressed: all the photos just showed fried rings on bread [edit - yup, that's all it is]. I'd be interested to know how it compares to a NOLA shrimp po-boy.

    #3: The Barcelona Ramblas and Bari Gotic (Gothic Quarter) have gotten a lot more modernized and chain-saturated than the last time I was there, about 7 years ago. Burgers and gelato are everywhere, but there are still a lot of little independent shops.

    #4: While the reputation for eating late is still there (most restaurants open for dinner at 8:00 or 8:30), tapas bars tend to be open from midafternoon on, so those of you looking for earlybird dining can still manage.

    #5: Magical pork and canned fish. The Iberian peninsula is home to the best pork in the world, the source for jamon iberico, but even uncured, pluma iberico (end loin), or secretos (boneless shoulder steak) make for awesome meals. Previously I hadn't had an opportunity to try conservas as SueF isn't a fan of finfish, but when I saw the ventresca bonito at one tapas bar, I had to have it... and loved it so much I bought a few cans of interesting fishy things before I came home.

    #6: *ugh* Spaniards sure do smoke a lot. Thankfully not inside restaurants, but when the weather's nice, inside and outside are vague terms.

    #7: Behold, I have become death, devourer of churros
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    (SueF in Figueras, birthplace of Dali and home to his museum)
    What is patriotism, but the love of good things we ate in our childhood?
    -- Lin Yutang
  • Post #2 - December 4th, 2018, 1:46 pm
    Post #2 - December 4th, 2018, 1:46 pm Post #2 - December 4th, 2018, 1:46 pm
    Madrid Day 1
    After the typical sleepless overnight flight, we arrive at the hotel around lunchtime. Luckily there are various temples to jamón close by, and a paper cone of 1/4" cubes of iberico ham and dainty breadsticks make a quick lunch. These can be had at various sizes and containing cheeses and/or charcuterie for about 3-5€ all over Madrid, Barcelona, Toledo and Figueres. Of particular note is that the vendors in the Boqueria market in Barcelona will discount these on weekday evenings (along with skewered and fried items that they'll *ugh* reheat in a microwave). We didn't see such discounts on Saturday.
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    clutching tightly to a cone of magic ham

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    More jamón at the Mercado de San Miguel

    A midafternoon snack of chocolate and churros held us off until the late dinner hours. This was a shop near the opera house, I don't remember the name.
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    Right after that we passed the Santa Gines Chocolateria (in the background), supposedly the best in town, but the lines were crazy.
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    Most of the restaurants we found were listed in Eater.com's 38 Essential Restaurants. Our first night was a favorite of Hemingway and Anthony Bourdain: Casa Salvador. Decorated with a lot of photos of Papa and bullfighters. We got a little side-eye showing up without a reservation at the opening hour (8:30PM), but we were seated and treated well.
    Fried Chorizo started the meal: spicy, oily, just right, with a wonderfully crusty bread (expect to be charged for bread whether you eat it or not. But with tax and service included in most bills, don't grouse).
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    Mushrooms were a recurring theme -- the Spaniards use them a lot, and with bits of jamón for flavor and texture, we couldn't resist eating about half of them before we remembered to snap a picture.
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    I ordered Hake in Salsa Verde, which included small prawns and a thin but delicious broth. Hake Steak, could be a thing by this time next year.
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    Sue ordered piquillo peppers stuffed with meat in tomato sauce. Very tasty, we had no problems finding uses for that crusty bread.
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    Casa Salvador
    Calle de Barbieri, 12, 28004 Madrid, Spain
    casasalvadormadrid.com
    +34 915 21 45 24
    Hours 1:30-4, 8:30-11:30 Mon-Sat
    What is patriotism, but the love of good things we ate in our childhood?
    -- Lin Yutang
  • Post #3 - December 4th, 2018, 4:58 pm
    Post #3 - December 4th, 2018, 4:58 pm Post #3 - December 4th, 2018, 4:58 pm
    Day 2 started with pastries from La Mallorquina, on the Puerto Del Sol, the center of Madrid and Spain.
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    Lunch would be cheese, chorizo, olives and bread bought on the way to art museums, and boy do they have art museums. Between the Prado with more Reubens, Goya and Greco than you can shake a stick at, the Thyssen, with impressionists, surrealists and terrific comparative exhibits featuring artifacts from other museums juxtaposed with paintings, and the Reina Sofia's Guernica and lots more Picasso, there's plenty of art to go around. (Don't try to do all three in one day, we took two and that was exhausting, and shortchanged the Prado).

    For dinner we decided to do a Tapas crawl along Cava Baja, not far from our hotel and the Plaza Mayor. At most places the drinks are under 3€, and tapas not much different. Ordering a drink may get you a single tapa that might be a platter of olives or a slice of bread with cheese or something, but the tapas and raciones (bigger dishes) aren't much more money.

    We started at the south end with Lamiak, which had a number of very creative items on their menu. Probably the tastiest stuff we had this evening, I'd like to go back and give this a full GNR-level investigation. Unfortunately, forgot about pix except the decor, but we had blue cheese with fig preserves, and duck confit in puff pastry, both of which were terrific.
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    Lamiak hip art and album cover decor

    Stop 2 was Taberna Tempranillo. Bigger (and pricier) wine selection, tapas also very good.
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    foie gras with grilled apples

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    platter of cheeses, including a really sharp blue

    Stop 3 was Vermuteria La Bolita Negra. Their on-tap vermouth served with a slice of candied orange and an olive, was €1.80 - the drink bargain of the night. We ordered a trio of croquettes (cheese, cuttlefish with ink, and chicken) that we ate too fast to photograph.
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    Hitting our limits on drink, and wanting to soak it up a bit, our last stop was Taberna La Taba, which didn't seem remarkable except that it was the first spot we saw that promised something like patatas bravas (billed as patatas con dos salsas). The romesco was a little weak, but a great garlicky aioli. Some water and tea helped too.
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    La Mallorquina
    Calle Mayor, 2, 28013 Madrid, Spain
    pastelerialamallorquina.es
    +34 915 21 12 01
    Hours 8:30AM to 9:30PM

    Lamiak
    Cava Baja, 42, 28005 Madrid, Spain
    lamiak.net
    Hours: 11:30AM to 1:30AM

    Taberna Tempranillo
    Cava Baja, 38, 28005 Madrid, Spain
    Hours: 1-4, 8-12 (no dinner hour on Monday)

    Vermuteria La Bolita Negra
    Cava Baja, 34, 28005 Madrid, Spain
    C76R+R2 Madrid, Spain
    +34 913 65 43 00
    Hours: Noon to 12 (Wednesday), 2:30AM (Fri/Sat) or 2 (the rest)

    Taberna La Taba
    Cava Baja, 19, 28005 Madrid, Spain
    taberna-la-taba.business.site
    +34 913 54 60 52
    Hours: 7:30AM to 1AM Tue-Fri, 7:30-2AM Sat/Sun, Closed Mondays
    What is patriotism, but the love of good things we ate in our childhood?
    -- Lin Yutang
  • Post #4 - December 4th, 2018, 7:10 pm
    Post #4 - December 4th, 2018, 7:10 pm Post #4 - December 4th, 2018, 7:10 pm
    Can't wait to see where you went in Barca. We were there this summer and had outstanding meals. Highlights were Bodega 1900, El Xampanyet, Elsa y Fred and Tickets Bar. I wish we ate like the Spanish do everyday.
  • Post #5 - December 4th, 2018, 7:37 pm
    Post #5 - December 4th, 2018, 7:37 pm Post #5 - December 4th, 2018, 7:37 pm
    iblock9 wrote:Can't wait to see where you went in Barca. We were there this summer and had outstanding meals. Highlights were Bodega 1900, El Xampanyet, Elsa y Fred and Tickets Bar. I wish we ate like the Spanish do everyday.

    Xampanyet is coming. We didn't do anything high end in BCN but boy did we like Born.
    What is patriotism, but the love of good things we ate in our childhood?
    -- Lin Yutang
  • Post #6 - December 5th, 2018, 8:55 am
    Post #6 - December 5th, 2018, 8:55 am Post #6 - December 5th, 2018, 8:55 am
    Day 3: El Cisne Azul (The Blue Swan), in the same neighborhood as the first night. The neighborhood to the NE of the Puerto del Sol bears a lot of similarities to Barcelona's Born: it feel like it's been recently moving up from seedy, and it's just the other side of the major thoroughfare from the old twisty part of town (Plaza Mayor/Puerto del Sol area in Madrid, Bari Gotic in BCN). This was recommended as a specialist in seasonal mushrooms, and they didn't disappoint there.
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    Olives were complimentary, bread as mentioned above, is not. The olives were very meaty and flavored with cumin.
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    We'd been sort of veg-deprived on previous days (potatoes don't count), so a salad with goat cheese sounded good. It was a lot more cheese than we anticipated, nicely seared on one side. The arugula was a nice foil, along with much better tomatoes than I'd expect for the waning days of November.
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    Many of their mushroom dishes were served with fried or scrambled eggs (a position I can't dispute). Not knowing which we'd prefer, we went with the medley. The fried egg's yolk is the deepest orange I've ever seen, and coated the fungi nicely. Each with their own flavor and texture, a great dish.
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    Grilled lamb chops rounded things out. Keep it simple: olive oil, salt, fire.
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    The place was recommended as popular with locals, and the joint was certainly jumping on a Monday night.
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    El Cisne Azul
    Calle de Gravina, 19, 28004 Madrid, Spain
    +34 911 12 90 80
    Hours: 1-4:30, 8-11:30 Mon-Sat; 12-5 Sun
    What is patriotism, but the love of good things we ate in our childhood?
    -- Lin Yutang
  • Post #7 - December 5th, 2018, 1:28 pm
    Post #7 - December 5th, 2018, 1:28 pm Post #7 - December 5th, 2018, 1:28 pm
    Day 4: La Sanabresa - The Eater guide had been very good to us, so for our last night in Madrid we dove into it again looking for something non-touristy, and perhaps a little cheaper (not that any of this was outrageously priced). Sanabresa was only a short walk south from Puerto del Sol, and although the Eater review said it had no tourists, well, the secret is out. The entree-like items on the menu mostly ran under 8€ which made me concerned that they were tapas/pintxos, especially when they had three prix-fixe menus at 11 (app/entree), 14 (entree/dessert) and 19€ (app/better set of entrees/dessert) -- all of which include a drink and bread. The drink turned out to be a half bottle of wine for Sue, and because I'd asked for cider which wasn't on the deal (an extra €7.50), a half-liter of bottled water.

    They had a huge menu, and I think we went with the prix fixe partly to narrow down from a huge number of choices. Being unsure if they were really full meals, we figured at that price we could always order more... but it was quite decent-sized portions. This would definitely be a GNR nominee, everything was fantastic including the service, hard to believe for that cheap a meal.
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    From the €19 menu, sauteed artichokes, of course with jamon:
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    From the cheaper menu, Russian Salad, or the half that Sue kept after giving me all the tuna
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    From the cheaper menu, secreto iberico -- boneless pork shoulder steak, grilled medium-rare. Nice crisp frites.
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    Other menu, pork in peppercorn sauce (I don't remember the cut)
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    Dessert: tocino cielo which translates as Bacon from Heaven, I think mainly for the layers. It's caramel, a pastry cream-like custard, and a cheese layer (think no-bake cheesecake). Quite tasty.
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    La Sanabresa
    Calle del Amor de Dios, 12, 28014 Madrid, Spain
    +34 914 29 03 38
    Hours: 1-4:30, 8:30-11:30 Mon-Sat
    What is patriotism, but the love of good things we ate in our childhood?
    -- Lin Yutang
  • Post #8 - December 6th, 2018, 11:59 am
    Post #8 - December 6th, 2018, 11:59 am Post #8 - December 6th, 2018, 11:59 am
    Day 5: Off to Barcelona. The reason I'm in Spain at all is that I'm speaking at a conference on Pharmaceutical Electronic Document Management. Originally it was supposed to be at a hotel on the beach, not far from the Bari Gotic... but rennovations forced it out to a hotel at the far end of the L3 (green) metro line, Zona Universitaria, and there's nothing in walking distance worth mentioning.

    So after getting our exhibit hall table set up, we went full tourist, off to Sagrada Familia, to see the progress -- it's supposed to finish in 2026. Across the street, we snagged a sandwich: you can still get a small bocadilla of jamón iberico for 3€, and I'd rather have those few shavings of magic ham than a $5 footlong from subway any day. But seriously, don't miss Sagrada Familia -- such amazing architecture, with an organic airy feel for a massive church.
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    Then, off to my personal religious temple, the Boqueria market on Las Ramblas. This trip we picked up some pimentón, and some nuts and candies for snacking, but it's so jam-packed with charcuterie, fresh fish and poultry, produce, and booths serving grilled, fried and raw foods, you can get dizzy. (Note: save your receipts, you can use the public restroom free if you've made a purchase).
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    Again, using Eater as a reference, we found a restaurant relatively close to our remote hotel, Leku. This is not a touristy neighborhood, language was a bit more of a challenge (some staff was proficient in English, other staff we made do with my fading high school Spanish). The food was Italian-inspired with Spanish sensibility and ingredients, highly creative, very tasty. The priciest meal of the trip, but still only around $100 with wine for the two of us.
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    Oxtail croquettes, impossibly creamy, I don't know how they stayed together

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    Pan de coca - crisp split flatbread with olive oil, garlic and tomato

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    Morcilla and Mushroom ravioli

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    "tagliatelle" of squid and zucchini with a baked bechamel-like sauce atop

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    venison and cheese in a port sauce - the cheese added richness but maybe overpowered the game

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    yogurt "cheesecake" being comtemplated by SueF

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    mignardise of chocolate with sesame seeds

    Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria
    La Rambla, 91, 08001 Barcelona, Spain
    http://boqueria.info
    +34 933 18 25 84
    Hours: Ostensibly 8-8:30 (closed Sunday) but each booth has its own hours

    Restaurante Leku
    Carrer de Joan Güell, 189, 08028 Barcelona, Spain
    94MJ+V5 Barcelona, Spain
    http://restauranteleku.es
    +34 934 90 38 10
    Hours: 1-4, 8:30-11, Closed Sunday
    What is patriotism, but the love of good things we ate in our childhood?
    -- Lin Yutang
  • Post #9 - December 7th, 2018, 5:06 pm
    Post #9 - December 7th, 2018, 5:06 pm Post #9 - December 7th, 2018, 5:06 pm
    Day 6: I'm in a hotel giving a presentation and eating a bland buffet lunch while SueF's out exploring museums. I was expecting the other speaker from my company to drag us along to a dinner with potential clients (he's a VP), but no luck on a free meal, so we went for something maybe a little lighter. ElDiset is a wine bar in the Born district (which kind of became our dining neighborhood).

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    Started with a glass of wine and a rosemary-forward gintonic (as they write it)
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    Croquettes have been great in Spain, these kept up the streak, another creamy-how-does-it-stay-together one, this time chicken. Note the drop of grape syrup, appearing on several dishes.
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    They listed their guacamole as a house specialty, served on parmesan-crusted pan de coca and including guindilla chiles. I liked the skewered bread presentation; the guac itself was a little bland, needing more lime.
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    The best bite of the night was duck pate with goat cheese, orange, and a mustard vinaigrette. Really fantastic and beautiful presentation.
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    The next one was a little less spot-on: black sausage (I assume morcilla), aged cheese, dried tomato and orange vinaigrette. The cheese like the one on the venison the night before, only served to mask flavors.
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    All in all, a good time, as you can see
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    And on the way back to the hotel, spotted this in a restaurant window -- aging the beef for all to see.
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    ElDiset Restaurante
    Carrer Antic de Sant Joan, 3, 08003 Barcelona, Spain
    http://eldiset.com
    +34 932 68 19 87
    Hours: 7pm-1:30am Mon-Thu; 7pm-3AM Fri, 1pm-3AM Sat/Sun
    What is patriotism, but the love of good things we ate in our childhood?
    -- Lin Yutang
  • Post #10 - December 10th, 2018, 7:16 am
    Post #10 - December 10th, 2018, 7:16 am Post #10 - December 10th, 2018, 7:16 am
    (I had originally posted on El Cisne Azul here since JoelF's post on the same restaurant reminded me that I had never posted our pics. But since his thread is 2018 and mine is a couple years old, I moved mine where it more properly belongs.)
    Last edited by Gypsy Boy on December 10th, 2018, 3:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.
    Gypsy Boy

    "I am not a glutton--I am an explorer of food." (Erma Bombeck)
  • Post #11 - December 10th, 2018, 7:21 am
    Post #11 - December 10th, 2018, 7:21 am Post #11 - December 10th, 2018, 7:21 am
    Likewise my post on Celso y Manolo has moved.
    Last edited by Gypsy Boy on December 10th, 2018, 3:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.
    Gypsy Boy

    "I am not a glutton--I am an explorer of food." (Erma Bombeck)
  • Post #12 - December 10th, 2018, 3:43 pm
    Post #12 - December 10th, 2018, 3:43 pm Post #12 - December 10th, 2018, 3:43 pm
    Day 7: El Xampanyet - Man, I'd kill for a meal like this in Chicago, but standing for another meal like this might kill me. This was on the Eater list, and also recommended by someone at the conference. The crowd resembled the stateroom scene in "A Night at the Opera," with more people wandering in, attempting to squeeze into the back hallway in hopes of finding a table that none of the other 60 people standing around had noticed. It's again in the Born district, pretty much right across the street from the Picasso museum.

    After about 10 minutes of jostling through the crowd, we managed to get a couple things ordered -- olives, artichokes, and some pa amb tomaquet, and a thick slice of cold potato topped with nummy stuff that we learned was called "patates escalibada" by reading the check. Another 20 minutes got us a space at the bar (no stools), where we pointed at stuff and said, "one of those, four of those, and what the heck was that going by?" How they kept track of what we ate and drank I have no idea, since we were served by at least four different people.

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    squeezing up to the bar - check out all the bottle openers, the sausages hanging, and the cans of conserva

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    Piquillo peppers stuffed with cheese

    On previous trips to Barcelona I hadn't managed to get to conservas - preserved seafood, so I had to try a half-order of the ventresca bonito, served over melted leeks.
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    getting garnished with black sesame seeds

    We had access to an English menu at this point, so we ordered a couple interesting-sounding things including chickpeas with bacon "cigrons amb cansalad" - creamy yet crispy-edged chickpeas with that great Spanish pork.
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    As sexy as this looks whole, this hangover-cure of mashed potatoes, chorizo and a soft egg, (in Catalan, ou ferrat or "fried egg") was even more luscious than it looks.
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    We were getting pretty full at this point -- share those potatoes with three or four other people, is my advice -- and had ordered pork with padron peppers (listed on the bill as ploma iberica), when this passed by. We didn't order it, but the guy behind the bar called it pancetta (I'd guess it's more of a lardo), wrapped around these little breads about 2" long, the whole thing looking like a peppermint candy.
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    Lastly, that pork: perfectly seasoned, a nice cap to the meal. I'd had a couple glasses of the house Xampanyet (champagne), Sue a couple classes of tempranillo, and we were really really happy.
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    Every single dish was perfectly seasoned: salty but never too salty, acid where it's needed, rich and fatty everywhere. I could never get tired of Spanish food this good. Note: their hours run a little earlier than many other places in Barcelona with a 7PM opening time, get there early to beat the crowd.

    El Xampanyet
    Carrer de Montcada, 22, 08003 Barcelona, Spain
    elxampanyet.es
    +34 933 19 70 03
    Hours: 12-3:30 Tue-Sun, 7-11 Tue-Sat
    What is patriotism, but the love of good things we ate in our childhood?
    -- Lin Yutang
  • Post #13 - Yesterday, 8:25 am
    Post #13 - Yesterday, 8:25 am Post #13 - Yesterday, 8:25 am
    We spent a few days in Barcelona several months ago and it's pretty near impossible not to have a great meal. Gotta get back there soon.

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