November 5, 2012

Miles away from La Boqueria

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A few of us had missed out on a particular dinner 2 weeks ago, and were fortunate to have been re-invited to dine at Boqueria by the responsible PR person.  This is apparently related the New York chain, which was supposedly inspired by the best tapas bars of Barcelona, such as Pinotxo.  I've always loved tapas and pintxos when they're done well, and so even though I don't normally attend these PR meals, I happily joined the event since I pretty much knew everyone else attending.

I was running late as a client had invited me for drinks across the harbor, and I dashed back while glowing red from a few shots of Lagavulin 16.  I was seeing via Twitter that most others were going to be late, too, when I received the earth-shattering news that Your Highness had actually arrived on time (or at least before the rest of us)!  Anyone who knows Your Highness will know that, that NEVER happens…  As the Chinese will say, 太陽從西邊出來了!

Anyway, I managed to find my way to our table, greeted everyone around me and waited for the food to arrive… I accepted a glass of white sangria, but wasn't in the mood for more alcohol just yet.

There were platters of cold cuts and cheese, which had Manchego, lomo…etc.  Nibbling on these was pretty enjoyable.

Bombas de la Barceloneta - the croquetas were so-so… the outer shells were thick, soft but the texture just wasn't right.  I was expecting it to be creamier and fluffier.  I think I overheard that the beef inside was supposed to be wagyu.  If it were true, then that's a terrible waste of beef in my opinion…  Oh, and anytime I see a kitchen using squeeze bottles to dress a dish in this fashion (in this case with garlic allioli), I pretty much write off the dish...

Pintxos morunos - I love lamb, but I found nothing to love with these Australian lamb skewers, which were pretty tasteless.  Didn't find the salsa verde interesting, either.

Salteado de setas - I thought this looked terribly Asian - either Chinese or Korean, as mushrooms were shredded then sautéed.  For some reason the dish tasted acidic, and therefore not up my alley.

Albondigas - are meatballs supposed to be this hard and tough?!  I know these were made with lamb and perhaps a little on the lean side, but still…

Carne a la plancha - I'm not a big steak guy, and hanger steak is supposed to be tasty.  Other than smoky flavors on the exterior, I really didn't taste the meat much.  The shishito (獅子唐) that came on the side was better.

Paella de mariscos - do we really have to have paella everytime when dining at a Spanish restaurant?!  To me this is like the sweet and sour pork equivalent of Spanish food… so clichéd.  Yes, it was made with bomba rice, squid, clams…etc.  But the whole thing was just a little too smoky and burnt.  Though I did, at least, have seconds…

Didn't get the name of this dish since it was "off menu", but obviously this was pulpo con patate with some green pimento sauce that came out of a squeeze bottle.  Not a fan.  Maybe my year in Taiwan has changed my palate, and I now appreciate things with a lighter touch.  This was just too smoky from the grill.

A note on the aforementioned white sangria… I left it sitting for a while and when I finally got to it, it tasted like flavored water.  Very bland.  At first I gave it the benefit of the doubt, thinking that it was because the melting ice diluted the drink.  But others apparently had similar thoughts, and they were drinking red sangria...

The kitchen then started sending out a series of desserts.  I passed on the torta de chocolate since I pretty much refuse to eat anything like it these days.  The very seasonal grandma's recipe carrot cake was decent, with rather prominent orange flavors.  The huge chunk sitting on the plate definitely felt very American in terms of portion size.

Crema Catalana Clásica - there ain't nothin' classic about trying to caramelize the sugar with a flame thrower instead of the usual blow torch…  Can you say "charred and bitter", boys and girls?

Flan - thankfully we got this… I pretty much take all comers when it comes to flan…

Torrija y helado - their version of "French toast", which we jokingly named "西(班牙)多士" in Cantonese…  This surprised on the upside, as the exterior was crispy and the acidity from the yogurt ice cream worked well to strike a balance.

Churros - my favorite sweet item in Spanish cuisine.  The perfect size like the ones I had in Spain.  These were pretty crunchy and hard, and I thought these were a little denser than what I had a few years ago in Spain for breakfast.  I actually ended up preferring to eat it without the chocolate dip.

Honestly, this was a very disappointing meal.  I don't know whether it's because the restaurant is too new and they just don't have it together yet, and honestly I wouldn't have come this early myself.

What I can say is this:  I've crawled through some of the best pintxos bars in San Sebastian, and I've had awesome breakfasts (two days in a row, almost made it three) at the famed Bar Pinotxo in La Boqueria in Barcelona.  What I had tonight was nothing like the awesome food I had in Spain, the food that claimed to have inspired this restaurant.  I'd walk a few blocks from here and eat at either Tapeo or Mesa 15 any day…

P.S. If anyone's wondering why the pictures are so crappy tonight, it's because there was virtually no light in the restaurant.  It's one of my pet peeves, and apparently I share that with Nick Lander.  Do people really enjoy squinting in the dark when dining?  Not me.


Unknown said...

I actually didn't think it was as bad on my visit - I deemed it decent. We also went to Bar Pinotxo in the real Barcelona Boqueria - that was quite decent too, but agree San Sebastian was just in a league of it's own.

My favourite Spanish in town are still Ole and Estudio, but the former is only great with Tapas, the latter is authenticity on recipes than real taste.

Haven't been to Vi Cool, 22 Ships or Sal Curioso yet. But looking at the recipes they just ain't very Spanish at all. At least Nobu in HK isn't too bad in execution, I just wish the same!

KC said...

Hey, thanks for sharing!

Peech said...

I'm glad both of you have had better experiences than I did. I hope they can improve or be more consistent.

Louisaville said...

Ate there 4 times now and consistently good. Have to say though... Hard to discern any critical balance in the above beyond your personal taste.

Peech said...

Well, as I said in an earlier comment, I'm glad some of you have had better experiences.

Of course it all comes down to personal taste - it always is in every restaurant and every dish. This isn't a professional critical restaurant review - it's a personal account of what I thought of my meal.


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