Tag Archives: palau

Le Cucine Mandarosso: Italian-proof

Those delicacies are for sale - unfortunately the chef isn't.

Those delicacies are for sale – unfortunately the chef isn’t.

Give it a try if… You want to taste the best home-made Italian food you can get at a restaurant in Barcelona.

Steer clear if… You have already been here three nights in a row and are starting to put on weight.

This post is dedicated to those witless outrépreneurs who dare ascribe the sad empty tables at their restaurants to 2012’s cheapest excuse for just about anything: the economic crisis. Are they too busy nurturing their self-serving bias to notice that place just a few steps away, invariably bursting with avid guests and thriving on their swelling wallets? Meet Le Cucine Mandarosso: another one of those few establishments to which this never-ending downturn looks as insignificant as anything with the name Jennifer Lopez on it.

Love at First Bite

In fact, you’d better call in advance to reserve a table at this Italian restaurant if you don’t want to leave your mouth watering. The ambience – typical Born/Ribera brick walls with carefully chosen retro details – is both charming and cozy, which reflects the two-sided culinary style: nothing but traditional Italian dishes (mainly with a southern, Neapolitan touch), but so well executed they turn into sophisticated gems – which justifies the slight premium price. Such an appealing mix that had I found a place like this while I was still living in Italy, I would surely have become a repeat and proudly referring customer.

"Pancia mia, fatti capanna"

“Pancia mia, fatti capanna”

Who Needs Mamma Now

After you sit at one of the cute marble tables, the waiters will bring you a small blackboard to illustrate the menu for that day. Do not skip the delicious antipasti (like the tasty verdurine) nor the gorgeous desserts (including freshly baked pastiera and cannoli), but be aware that pasta rules, with dressings that span from a wonderful tomato and mozzarella sauce to consistenly stunning fish specialties. You can even buy an amazing pasta for your home experiments, coupled with other carefully chosen delicacies. I confess I had to cut down on my visits after a while, since I was embarassed to reserve for the umpteenth time and some waiters were clearly seeing me more often than their significant others. Your turn now.

Le Cucine Mandarosso: Carrer de Verdaguer i Callís, 4 (La Ribera) – BCN +34 932 690 380 – closed: sundays all day (except for the aperitivo in the evening), mondays all day

UPS Perfection Score: 9/10 + wow!


Hélène Grimaud: Ambrosial

"Mais oui... I can play, too. Now go figure"

"Mais oui... I can play, too. Now go figure"

Give it a try if… You are willing to give a beautiful woman a chance to make great art, too.

Steer clear if… You are boycotting Made in France to punish the population for voting the slimy half of “Merkozy”.

Thanks to an unexpected turn of events, I was lucky enough to be invited to the Palau de la Musica once more to witness a promising concert by Hélène Grimaud, a world-renowned French classical pianist with such a sophisticated charm she makes Carla Bruni look like the graceless social climber she allegedly actually is.

A Wonderful Programme

Hélène has been hailed as “the new Glenn Gould” for her ability to reinvent, pushing the envelope of creative listening across uncharted boundaries. Apart from useless marketing comparisons, Monday night’s performance surely confirmed her greatness, to an albeit sleepy audience I’ll cheerfully take the chance to slash in a moment. The programme included Mozart’s classic Piano Sonata No.8 in A minor, K 310; Alban Berg’s inventive Piano Sonata, Op.1; Liszt’s glorious Piano Sonata in B minor, S. 178; and Béla Bartók’s aerial Romanian Folk Dances – that is, the same tracklist as Grimaud’s latest album, “Résonance”.

Sssh... This woman has something to say.

Sssh... This woman has something to say.

The Self and the Gift of It

I was absolutely surprised by Hélène’s interpretations. She truly is an innovator, in an almost scary sort of way. So much so that Liszt’s sonata (which I’m especially fond of, since it had the almost exclusive pleasure of accompanying me last winter in Berlin) blew me off my feet in both ways: that of the masterpiece which dares tell my deepest secrets in its own words, and that of the hypnotic take of a woman who just needs to hide under the bush of her own hair to turn into all sorts of substances and creatures, from Hungarian fog to a menacing yeti, from a retired geisha to the breeze of a warm April sunday.

Dead Men Sitting

While my friend, I, and some others were blinded by her courage and gave her due recognition, most of the audience looked and sounded bizarrely unmoved. A bewildering lack of respect, in my opinion, as much as the Murphyesque presence of a man sitting right behind us, whose breath was so tediously loud as to spoil several magic moments of the smartly designed sequence. Like, get us a life! Get a surgeon NOW! There I was, grinding my axe again… Luckily for him, the ruthless criminal vanished right after the second encore, saving his own life and the years I would have spent rotting in a cell. Come back soon, Hélène.

UPS score (Utmost Perfection Scale): 9/10 + standing ovation

Ryuichi Sakamoto: Formal

Pensive? I'm actually cutting my toenails...

Pensive? I'm actually cutting my toenails...

Give it a try if… You like sophisticated contemporary instrumental music.

Steer clear if… You only like tunes that give you a chance to tap your feet and shake your bootie.

Some artists, once they have got nothing left to prove, simply have fun by stretching their boundaries in multiple directions. One of them is Ryuichi Sakamoto who, after mesmerizing the electronic-savvy audience of last summer’s Sonar Festival with Alva Noto, came back to Barcelona this November with a quite different project, his “Trio Tour 2011”.

No Logo

The venue was the ever-enchanting Palau de la Musica; the occasion, a jazz festival which I will snobbishly refuse to name since – as Naomi Klein taught me several years ago – the fact that cultural events carry the name of their sponsors is a dangerous form of corporate colonization. Sakamoto was accompanied by veteran Jaques Morelenbaum (with whom, along with singing sister Paula, he recorded critics’ favourites “Casa” in 2001 and “A Day in New York” in 2003) on cello and young Judy Kang on violin.

Me, Me, Me

"De do do do, de da da da, is all I want to say to you..."

"De do do do, de da da da, is all I want to say to you..."

Sakamoto started out by breaking the ultimate barrier, literally putting his hands inside his Yamaha to pluck its strings and make strange, dissonant sounds which quickly brought me from “How modern!” to “Euch!”. The rest of the set was more institutional, including the mandatory Fukushima dedication, among oh-so-elegant renditions of old classics and new tracks. I found the leader a bit stiff – his composure and tense shoulders made him look and sound too self-conscious, perhaps even self-important and a few other adjectives beginning with “self-” – but all in all, he gave the powerful performance that everyone expected.

The Rest of the Gang

I wasn’t too impressed by Kang who, apart from delivering the leather pants factor, didn’t score too high in the listening department; my favourite by far was Morelenbaum, whose calm and generous presence made him appear like a shining rock on the dimly-lit stage. A special mention for the obscure geek sitting near Sakamoto behind a computer (yet another logo… guess which), who I suspect was secretly surfing the Web all evening while looking inspired and dropping a couple of echoes and reverbs here and there. You certainly don’t need me to tell you how great you are, Ryuichi, but with all due respect I’ll keep looking for satori somewhere else.

UPS score (Utmost Perfection Scale): 7.5/10