Location: Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona is an amazing city full of exciting sights and sounds, but food-wise it’s not particularly known for its cuisine. You might think that’s a surprise, but that’s because if you’ve been to Barcelona you’ve probably had dishes called tapas, which are actually culturally not from Barcelona, but rather, Madrid. Catalan cuisine is quite humble, very similar to the Italian cibo povero (peasant food).
However, over the past couple of years, Barcelona has really risen to the occasion. Yes, there were fine dining restaurants before, but good cuisine was not among the masses. I’d like to highlight a wonderful meal I enjoyed more recently in Barcelona, at Restaurant Embat. Restaurant Embat is a cosy restaurant in the Eixample offering traditional Catalan dishes with a modern twist. We started off with their version of patatas bravas and the sweet onion tatin with cheese sauce. The bravas were scrumptious, but the star was the onion tatin. It was indeed sweet, but the mysterious cheese sauce complimented it ever so delicately.
Up next we had confit leeks with smoked sardines and dill. Cooking the leeks in this way gently softens them without colouring, and releases their onion-y, garlic-y flavour into the oil. And, by mixing the leeks with a creamy sauce, voila! You have an amazing dish. The smoked sardines were also a perfect addition.
Our next two dishes were the roasted sweet potato with locally made kimchi and the grilled octopus leg with roasted tomato, potato and quail egg. Regarding the sweet potato, I was really happy to see a veggie dish on the menu that didn’t involve fish, seafood or meat! The sweet potato was creamy and sweet, and the toppings really created a festival of flavours. The octopus dish was delicious too. I’m always nervous when ordering octopus because there’s the risk that it will be overcooked, but that didn’t happen here.
For dessert, Victor’s parents got the lemon pie, which was delightfully refreshing and airy. Victor and I shared the torrija with sour apple sorbet. Torrija is essentially the Spanish version of French toast. However, this one was so incredibly fluffy, it just melted in your mouth. The decadence of the torrija was matched really well with the freshness of the sour apple sorbet.
The flavour of the dishes at Restaurnat Embat are deep and fulfilling, the kind of flavours we want to experience every day. Run by an amazing chef and lovely manager, this small-scale operation is worth all the praise. I can’t wait to visit again.
Have you tried Catalan food before? How about modern, Catalan food?