Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Open to the unknown in Barcelona

Besides being fun, traveling could also be very stressful if the travelers do not possess at least a bit of that happy go lucky spirit. Plans often don't work out and accidents, well, they often happen. Besides missed flights and lost luggage, we also encountered our fair share of failed fooding attempts on this Barcelona trip. But despite it all, we ate incredibly well, perhaps better than if my plans work out.

On our second night, fresh from a nap and shower, we headed out to the much raved neighborhood nook Bar Mut for dinner at the prime Spanish dinner hour of ten PM. After a brisk walk through the chilly air to arrive at the very adorable, but incredibly small dinner spot, we found it packed to the hilt with locals and no one seemed in any hurry to move. Hungry and cold, I requested that the waitress suggest a place nearby. She immediately recommended what sounded like "cupid," which she described as a "white house with windows" a block and half away.

The place turned out to be Qvid. It didn't look particularly white, but it did have windows, just like all the other buildings along the street. It was clearly a place for locals. Everyone looked up in surprise when we burst in the door. The owner spoke no English, but we managed to get seated after a bit of confusion. We further thrown him off by requesting an espresso with our cava to help one of our companions combat jet lag. We then encountered more issues when I tried to order langostino as a part of our starters. What I thought to be prawns turned out to be a two foot long live orange fish, which he brought to the table on a platter to show us. (I still haven't figured out where we went wrong) All this may have been too much for the man, as he soon suggested, as much as we could make out through gestures, that we trust the ordering to him and he will make sure to include the big orange fish as a part of the deal. We were happy to do so in hope of getting an authentic meal.

The tapas came quickly. We were in awe of the above perfectly grilled plump squid. They were tender, naturally sweet, and not at all rubbery like their counterparts tend to be on this side of the pond.
I had also asked for some mussels, having seen them disappear quickly at a nearby table. Pleasantly salty and garlicky, these little guys were addictive.
What impressed everyone were the salt cod fritters. Tame in salt content, the salt cod flesh was milky, flavorful, and almost greaseless. The chef had done right by this Portuguese specialty.
We all went quiet when our orange monster fish came to the table presented as small fillets atop slivers of fried potato and garlic chips and adorned with hot grease-crisped basil. It smelled awesome. I regretted so much not snapping a picture early for a before and after. The flesh was much more creamy than flaky. A bit of condensed balsamic glaze seriously kicked the flavor up a notch. We stopped talking for the duration of this course. It was terrific!
It's hard to top the fish with the dessert course, so I went for interesting instead. This typical Catalan dessert is essentially bitter orange marmalade topped with a fresh farmer's cheese drizzled with honey and sprinkled with walnuts. It was good in the way that my Greek yogurt similarly treated back home is good. My companions were not terribly impressed, but no one was disappointed sipping a complementary Muscato with it.

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