12 March 2009

Barcelona for Restaurant Week

I have written a few times in the past about the merits of my favorite neighborhood restaurant Barcelona. They keep up the good work with a nine-course vegetarian degustation for Restaurant Week that features a wide range of tapas that should please a wide range of palettes.

Barcelona offers their everyday selection of cocktails, tapas and entrees during Restaurant Week. The nine-course tapas degustation is served in three waves with an accompanying glass of house-made red sangria that is soft and pleasant (unlike the majority of punchbowl cocktails passed off as sangria by restaurants).

The restaurant has a great atmosphere which includes a great patio that opens when the weather warms up. The service is attentive and friendly.

The first three courses were a tomato mozzarella salad, almond gazpacho and smoked chickpea hummus. The cheese and oil in the salad were divine. The tomatoes tasted pleasant but looked a little rough around the edges. This was, however, about the only complaint I could register about the tapas, so I'll get it out there first before I start heaping praise on the rest of the meal.

The almond gazpacho was absolutely amazing. The terminology "gazpacho" applies to this soup mostly because it is cold, and it also probably describes some of the vegetables in the soup. However, the almond gazpacho contained no whole veggies. Instead, the soup starts with a garlicky outburst that is roped in by a rich, nutty undercurrent that grows on you with every spoonful. I adored this soup, although I would challenge people with an iron stomach to try and eat an entire bowl of this because it is inordinately rich. Thanks goes out to the degustation portions.

The smoked chickpea hummus adds an extra flavor element to Barcelona's delicious hummus. The smokey flavor adds a deeper finish to an almost perfect dip. It is an intense flavor that lingers long after being swallowed.

The second round of tapas included a cous cous dish, deep fried artichoke hearts and sauteed mushrooms. The mushrooms were shitakes cooked until they were tender enough to fall apart in your mouth. This dish was the first that functioned completely as a side dish.

The cous cous had elements that were Spanish with Middle Eastern and Indian notes filling in the spaces. The cous cous was served cold with raisins, olives, garlic cloves and dried cherries. The spices and raisins gave the dish a Mediterranean flair, and the sweetness and garlic seemed vaguely Indian to my palate. Whatever the influence, the dish was delicious.

The fried artichoke hearts were served in the classic papas bravas fashion--with a side of ailoi. The ailoi was flavored with jalepeƱos, and the spices bring a great deal of panache to the dish.

The third wave of tapas included grilled asparagus, sauteed spinach and potato chips and blue cheese dip. The asparagus consisted of huge stalks grilled in olive oil and served with shaved parmesan.

The potato chips are deep fried sweet and blue potato slices with a creamy Roquefort dipping sauce. The blue cheese adds richness to the chips, and the salt creates a mouthwatering sensation. They are savory and comforting.

The sauteed spinach is cooked in olive oil with pine nuts, golden raisins and shallots. The dish had an earthy character that was brightened up by the golden raisins, and the pine nuts gave it a nice crunch.

I also got a chance to sample the Spanish cheese plate. It wasn't part of Restaurant Week, but it did provide a satisfying conclusion to the festivities. The cheeses were served alongside marcona almonds and quice paste. The cheeses were manchego (a whole-milk cheese made from sheep's milk), Cabra de Romero (a goat's milk cheese flavored with rosemary) and a soft, very ripe Spanish blue cheese that I am unable to name. The cheeses were great. I nominate the rosemary goat cheese as the grand champion of the cheese plate.

Barcelona is one of Columbus' top restaurants. Restaurant Week should give diners a great shot to sample nine different dishes for a reasonable rate.

Barcelona Restaurant Week

Barcelona on Urbanspoon


Kate said...

Ahh, this is why I was upset that Restaurant Week got held during Lent, as I gave up cheese until Easter and it seemed that 90% of the vegetarian meals still featured cheese pretty heavily. The Barcelona menu sounds to die for, though, I would have loved to eaten it.

I believe, though, that papas bravas, while occasionally accompanied by alioli as well, most often is served with a spicy red sauce. While we honeymooned in Spain, I spotted one English translation of the dish that called it "the brave sauce." Papas alioli is an entirely different dish. Also, yes, as vegetarians in Spain, we ate potatos every day for two weeks. Mmm.

deraj1013 said...

Papas bravas is most often served with both an aioli and a spicy red sauce. I interpretted this sauce as a fusion of the two, and the preparation was similar to that of the papas bravas at Barcelona (Picture here. See this papas bravas recipe also for confirmation:

NYTimes Papas Bravas Recipe

I should correct myself...the Spanish spelling for aioli is allioli, as well. And I'll give you some advice how to bypass the lent thing...I gave up religion for lent, so now I can eat whatever I want. :)

Thanks for reading up on my blog!

Walker Evans said...

Great review! I've heard a rumor that Barcelona may continue to do a "tapas tasting menu" of some sort year-round. I certainly hope so because I didn't get to try it last week myself. Sounds great!

deraj1013 said...

The other good way to enjoy Barcelona is the half-priced tapas on Mondays. If you combine it with the happy hour drink specials, you get a lot more bang for your buck (And thanks for listing me on the Columbus Underground update. It is greatly appreciated).