Tag Archives: eixample

Tempura-Ya: Orthodox

Ain't no fake sushi masters hidden behind this door.

Ain’t no fake sushi masters hidden behind this door.

Do you remember the time when you might find yourself craving for sushi? Sounds unbelievable now that you can find it at your supermarket, your gym, your gas station and soon your dentist. Finding good sushi is a whole other challenge; if you are in Barcelona, you will hardly be let down by Tempura-Ya.

The Art of Compliance

Forget the usual lump of gluey rice with sloppy, savourless toppings. Sushi is exactly what it is supposed to be at Tempura-Ya. So many dishes are worth trying beyond it, though, since this is one of those rare places you can rely on for a wide array of orthodox Japanese specialties. Having tried and enjoyed several of them, I can confirm its offer stretches the boundaries of its medium-high price range upwards, providing more authentic taste and experience than that sort of money (30-50 euros – sorry for being so vague, but it is all about the fish and wine) can usually buy. I have gone several times and will certainly return; there might be even better places, but this is definitely good – and affordable – enough.

UPS Score (Utmost Perfection Scale): 8/10

31 July update: I went back to the restaurant last night, and I have to report the experience was totally different. As in bad. I am not sure what happened – has the ownership changed? Is the usual team on holiday? Was it just a bad Monday? – but the sushi was absolutely ordinary, the fish was not too fresh, and the tempura was heavy on the stomach. I would regret to paint a big black cross on this place so guess I will give it one more try, but for the moment I would say: approach with caution!

Tempura-YaMuntaner 153 (Eixample Izquierdo) – BCN – +34 934 193 182 –  Qype page

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Speakeasy: Superior

Don't believe the hype. They'll let you in if you're able to pay the bill.

Don't believe the hype. They'll let you in if you're able to pay the bill.

Give it a try if… You want to spoil yourself, someone else, or both.

Steer clear if… You are not in the mood to play the V.I.P. game.

How do you turn something into something really special? One of the most clever ways is to put a lock on it. After all, in a male chauvinist society, any closed door becomes a saucy invitation. Me wants to entah. Me wants to make miiine. Urgh! Now, though, Mr. Man seems to have learned the lesson: that is how the same phenomenon that turned chastity belts into a miserably failed gimmick is currently giving birth to the successful fad of “clandestine” restaurants. Enter Speakeasy, hidden within the classic cocktail bar Dry Martini: so sexy that it quickly has become one of Barcelona’s worst kept secrets.

The Unlocker Gets Unlocked

Personally, I could not care less about all this. I guess as a – may I say gay? – well, gay man, my testosterone supply just does not respond to the manufactured allure of the “exclusive” tag. What I do care about is the service; the ambience; most importantly, the food. And luckily, beyond the marketing façade, Speakeasy stands out for delivering a superior experience in all three respects. That is a charm I simply cannot resist – so in I went (with the excuse of this year’s Barcelona Opportunity Week) and out I came, feeling terribly guilty; terribly bourgeois; and terribly fulfilled.

Great news: real substance beyond the show

Great news: real substance beyond the show

Chapeau!

Strangely enough, this dinner reminded me of the amazing meals at Le Signal, the French on-piste restaurant I mentioned in my previous post. Every course was equally well-conceived, forward-thinking and surprising: from the marinated salmon cube and mushroom truffle to the velvet crab soup with fennel parfait, from the touching roasted meat cannelloni (best I have ever had) to the sound duck confit, down to the exquisite vanilla & chocolate dessert, all details were impeccable – apart from one of the waiters, but hey, he must have been our pinch test to ensure we were not dreaming. Take note, perhaps for a special occasion. And may I please come along?

UPS score (Utmost Perfection Scale): 9-/10 + wow!

Speakeasy: Carrer de Aribau, 162 (Eixample Izquierdo) – BCN +34 932 17 50 80 – website

Petit Comité: Catalan-chic

Grandma's food in an evening dress

Grandma's food in an evening dress

Give it a try if… You are looking for proper Catalan food in a cool setting.

Steer clear if… You’re after a cheap informal snack.

If you live in Barcelona and you like dining out, chances are you’ve already been in Passatge de la Concepció – you know, that street between Passeig de Gracia and Rambla de Catalunya where locals and foreigners alike flock in order to look important and sign imaginary autographs while eating designer plastic in one of the pseudo-glamorous restaurants. Luckily, Petit Comité stands out as an interesting exception.

Fideuástic

Fermi Puig, the renowned chef which created this restaurant in 2008, clearly held the same thought I entertain so often when I dine in upscale restaurants in Barcelona: why do suddenly equate “good” with “containing puré de manzana (apple purée)” or “covered by a layer of foie (liver)”? That is why in Petit Comité you can taste a fantastic fideuá – curiously black instead of the usual red, a detail that tasted wittingly doctrinal albeit unorthodox – which made justice for all those times when I ate this sort of thin fish noodles, a classic of Catalan cuisine, simply cooked without love. Nearly on the same level was my friend’s dessert – mantecado, a luscious ice cream with crunchy almond topping – followed by my melting veal fricandó with mushrooms. All of this in a forward-thinking, minimalistic setting which shows that elegance is mostly a process and good service a reason for pride.

Residents, there's hope beyond Grupo Tragaluz

Residents, there's hope beyond Grupo Tragaluz

The Albondigas Situation

The evident pride, rooted in the tradition of Catalan cuisine, might even go one step further, trying to strike a tighter balance between quality and quantity of food prepared (it is probably difficult to make good meatballs in restaurant amounts, but my friend’s albondigas were unacceptably compact); also, my strawberries with whipped cream were a bit ordinary, and the prices on the menu could use a little down-tipping. On the whole, though, the unusual level of food overall and the above-average ambiance and service awareness – not to mention the Local-Gorgeous manager! – make a visit to Petit Comité quite compulsory for bonvivants. I’ll be back.

UPS score (Utmost Perfection Scale): 7.5/10

Petit Comité: Passatge de la Concepciò 13 (Eixample Izquierdo), BCN +34 935 500 620 – closed: mondays – website