Sunday, August 16, 2015

Bodega 1900 - 05/26/2015

Carrer de Tamarit, 91
08015 Barcelona, Spain
+34 933 25 26 59

In its day, El Bulli was arguably the world's most sought after reservation and there was much lamentation and gnashing of teeth when Ferran Adrià its closure. Then in 2011 Ferran and his brother Albert opened the modern tapas restaurant Tickets which instantly became one of the world's hardest reservations to secure. For those who aren't lucky enough to secure a seat, the Adrià brothers have a consolation prize named Bodega 1900 across the street. Bodega 1900 takes its lead from the vermouth bars popular at the start of the 20th century and while the restaurant's menu is more traditional than its popular neighbor, it does feature flashes of culinary modernism the Adriàs are known for. Like most tapas restaurants, Bodega 1900 offers an a la carte menu but the staff is happy to prepare a custom menu for its more adventurous diners.

Para inciar el vermuteo - Vermouth to start
We started the meal with a cup of the house vermouth. The cocktail is primarily made of the ubiquitous Martini Rosso cut with a bit of their limited Gran Lusso. The cocktail has a hint of sweetness coupled with bitter herbs and citrus clean that was akin to a lighter more fruit forward Negroni.

Patatas chips caseras con salsa de vermut - Homemade Potato Chips with vermouth
The tasting started off with a few snacks to accompany the aperitivo The chips were thin, crispy and equally delicious with the subtle vinegar-y bite of the house made hot sauce or alone.

Algas crujientes - Crispy seaweed
The potato chips while enjoyable, lacked the panache befitting an restaurant. The second snack was a bowl of deep fried seaweed, equally airy and crisp but with a more nuanced umami flavor and a tinge of sesame to boot.

Coctel de gambas - Shrimp cocktail
I've never been a fan of shrimp cocktail. The dense overcooked shrimp and blunt cocktail sauce feel more suited to a mediocre buffet rather than a fine dining establishment. Happily, this far exceeded my expectations with a snappy rare texture and fresh sweetness. The sauce was similarly elevated, with a tangy zing that deftly complimented the flavor of the shrimp.

La acetuna-S con piparra - Gordal and Piparra olive
These were a nice change of pace from the ubiquitous olives served at every other tapas joint. The creamy spheres popped releasing a pure olive note tinged with a touch of anchovy-like salinity and smoke.

Pulga de cangrejo - Crab on toast
Next up was delightful crab salad. The strings of tender snow crab are smothered in a mixture of creamy avocado and pungent romesco. The salad would be a bit lopsided texturally were it not for the crusty toast point the dish was served on.

Pulga de salmón ahumado - Smoked salmon on toast
For this course, took a page out of classic Jewish deli fare. The sliver of smoky salmon was governed in a glistening sheen of truffle honey. The interplay between the sharp smoke and sweet honey was further elevated by the touch of lactic tang and the accent of the dill sprigs.

Esparragos naturales - Fresh white asparagus
White asparagus is something of a rare treat at home so I quite enjoyed these sweet fresh stalks. The asparagus was boiled then seasoned with salt, pepper, and a mustard glaze, simple yet effective with the succulent vegetal sweetness of the vegetable.

Berenjenas con salmorejo - Eggplant fries with tomato purée
This was a rather whimsical preparation of eggplant, cut into thick sticks then deep-fried akin to French fries. Beneath the thin fried shell, the eggplants had a rather creamy consistency. The piping hot filling contrasted wonderfully with the chill of the salmorejo which also conveyed a lovely springtime levity.

Ostras Gillardeau n3 - Gillardeau oysters
I didn't know there could be name brand oysters but yet here we are. The Gillardeau family has been raising oysters since the turn of the century and by that I mean the twentieth century. The self-proclaimed "Rolls Royce of oysters" were on the meaty side but with a fresh mild salinity and a supple creamy body.

Navajas en escabeche blanco - Razor clams in white escabeche
The lightly blanched razor clams were a big change from the previous course. The deep saline flavor and dense supple snap offered by the clams were heftier than I was expecting as was the astringent tang of the Escabeche sauce.

Surtido de ahumados - Assortment of Smoked Meat
Given Spain's penchant for pork, I was surprised to see the charcuterie was all fish but from start to finish the selections were excellent. First up was a simple mackerel, the smoke a natural compliment to the fish's inherent oiliness. The most elaborate of the quartet was an eel with saffron, the smoking gave the eel a denser feel while the saffron added a touch of the exotic. Following the eel, the tuna was rendered surprisingly mute; still it was easy to appreciate the fish's even tender texture and the contrasting toastiness of the hazelnut accent. last but not least was the sliver of sardine, which packed an immense amount of flavor into a very tiny package.

Rubia Gallega - Dry Aged Beef Carpaccio
Rubia Gallega or Galician Red, refers to a specific breed of cattle that comes from the Galicia region of Northern Spain. The beef has been cured for three weeks in salt then sliced paper thin, the result is an airy sliver of meat that exhibits a harmonious blend of beefy power, butter, salty smoke, and meaty umami funk, the absolute favorite of the evening for both me and my girlfriend.

Jamón Ibérico 5 años - 5-year old Iberian ham
No tapas meal would be complete without a serving of prized Iberico ham. The brothers source theirs from Joselito, a family run business that has been in business for over a century. Aged for a minimum of five years, the meat has the fine creamy consistency and rich depth of porcine flavor but truth be told it was hard to see a significant difference between this and other top Iberian ham.

Ensalada de tomate natural - Fresh Tomato Salad
The tomato was the perfect remedy after all the cured meats. Glistening ruby hemispheres of fresh tomato came drizzled with olive oil and coarse salt adding a fruity salty savor to compliment the sweet succulent fruit.

Croqueta de jamón Ibérico Joselito - Joselito Iberian ham croquette
Moving onto the heavier cooked tapas, we started with a classic croquette filled with rich bechamel imbued with the profound porcine profile of Iberico pork.

Mollete de Papada - Pork Cheek Sandwich
Mollete refers to a type of soft white Andalusian bread that is usually served lightly toasted and drizzled with olive oil or lard. At Bodega 1900 the bread was filled with a mix of melted gruyere and tender pork cheek. The simple sandwich celebrated the effective combination of the two ingredients highlighted with a slight mustard kick.

Mollete de calamares picantes - Spicy squid "Hot Dog"
The Adriàs decided to channel some Korean influences for this dish, seasoning the mild calamari with a mix of kimchi chipotle and aioli. Much blunter than the previous offering, the dense bun and clumsy mix of sauces overwhelmed the delicate flavor of the squid.

Pluma Ibérica Joselito - "Iberian Pluma" Pork
At this point my girlfriend and I were getting pretty damn full but when we were presented with a skewer of grilled Iberico we found just a bit more space. Literally translated as the Feather Loin, the Pluma is cut from a fattier section the shoulder giving it the textural nuance of lean pork with the full throated flavor of fattier cuts. The meat was reminiscent of a yakitori style preparation, grilled and simply seasoned allowing the smoky char and richness of the meat to shine.

Pincho de cordero - Lamb skewer
We were also presented with a skewer of lamb contrasted with sweet onion. A less elegant meat than the Pluma, the lamb benefited greatly from the fresh springtime contrast of the onion.

Albondeigas con sepia - Meatballs with cuttlefish
I expected a bit more from this course. The meatballs were pretty classic but rather one dimensional despite the inclusion of the cuttlefish.

El melón con vermut blanco - Melon with white vermouth
Coaxed by our server, we opted to start dessert with a light fruit chaser. The melon takes on a Jello-like consistency and a surprisingly boozy heft to compliment the fruit's inherent sweet succulence.

Milhojas de cremo con su sorbete - Millefeuille with strawberry sorbet
Our final dessert was a take on the classic Millefeuille. The puff pastry was caramelized giving it a more pronounced butteriness and denser crunch making it a fitting foil for the exuberant strawberry sweetness.

The food strikes the right balance; exemplifying the best of traditional tapas style cooking while celebrating the of creativity and dynamism of the brothers Adrià. Our dinner at Bodega 1900 was everything I could have hoped for and the double-take that our server gave when he saw the bill provided a humorous exclamation to a wonderful meal.

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