We went with two of our favorite people last night to Barcelona to catch up and take advantage of Restaurant Week. The evening got off to a rocky start. Although we had reservations for 7pm, we were not seated until after 7:30. It might have been later if I hadn't asked about the owner by name (which, admittedly, is a dick move, but whatever). We were pinned up against the wine rack for over half an hour, but were offered a free drink for the trouble.
Things got better. We were seated in the enclosed dining area with the interesting bare bulb, tree log light fixture/sculpture - which I adore. The waiter was helpful and patient as we sorted through the menu. The Restaurant Week special is not, as the men of the table argued, salad + dessert + 4 tapas; it's actually, as one of the learned ladies knew, four things - period. Perfectly fine, but at $30 for the set, it's only worth doing if each item you want costs $7.50 or more. The table planned on a few $4 selections, so we opted out of the special menu.
We ordered 3 tapas apiece, which was plenty. With the exception of sardines (intrinsically offensive to some), every dish was well received at our table. Standouts included the:
-Goat cheese & mushrooms with balsamic & sherry reduction (two orders; no leftovers). The mild creamy goat cheese was a pleasant contrast to the biting balsamic.
-Duck confit. That dish was a crowd pleaser before it hit the table, with a rich, drool-inducing fragrance and a charming little iron serving piece.
-Warm octopus. I'm not big on octopus, having eaten it primarily in little fried ringlets at places with no imagination, but this was quite good. Intermixed with vegetables and a pleasant, spicy sauce, the meat was more tender and less chewy than I'd assumed.
-Crepes with dulce de leche - We were stuffed by meal's end, but made room for some sugar. My husband got the crepes with dulce de leche. Maybe because I'm nostalgic for our South American vacation, I was smitten with the filling and fought off the urge to lick the plate (successfully, thank you very much).
By way of constructive criticism, a smaller cut on the fruit in the chorizo with sweet & sour figs would make the dish more appealing. In the dim lighting, it's hard to distinguish between components, and the large fig pieces overwhelm the sausage. The beef empanadas did not live up to their billing as "spiced." The avocado purée added interest and provided contrasting texture, but the flavor could be better developed.
Altogether, it was delightful and delicious, but there was one other head scratcher towards the conclusion. My husband ordered a café con leche, and when it came in glass tumbler, it was too hot to touch. Everyone at the table agreed - there's no way to pick it up without a visit to the burn ward. When we asked for a substitute mug, the waiter explained "that's how they do it in Spain." Really? They all wear oven mitts to drink coffee in Spain? Could have done without the psudo-cultural snobbery. Correct answer is, "no problem."
See, how they do it in "America" is - they write about it in a blog.