There was one particularly memorable lunch in Barcelona in Gràcia (closest metro station: Fontana). I’d heard good things about a Japanese-Mediterranean restaurant called Somodó and as we were planning on taking my mother-in-law for a nice lunch, it seemed like a good opportunity to try it. Reservations recommended as there’s only seating for about 20 people though we managed to book that morning for lunch for three.

You wouldn’t be blamed for walking straight past the restaurant – the windows are blocked up and there’s a very minimalist entrance, not unlike those I remember seeing in Tokyo. They have set menus for lunch and dinner but while both are very well priced for you get, lunch is the real bargain. Inside, the lighting is a bit dim but I guess that could be considered intimate. We were seated immediately at a round table laden with a small dish of olive oil and an apple. (We would later see apple threaded through the menu.)

Apple and Olive Oil

No printed menus were proffered but instead chef Shojiro Ochi himself came to our table and sullenly recited the choices for that day’s menú del dia to us in Spanish. No choice for the amuse and the first course. Fish or lamb for second; brownie or mousse for dessert. Between the three of us, we tried everything available – I love creating our own little tasting menu. Anyway, I believe the menu changes daily so you do need to listen carefully!

Excellent warm bread was brought to our table and turned out to be necessary to mop up all the sauces that were to come. Of course, it went well with the olive oil too.

Bread

I only thought to take a photo of the bread midway through the meal – don’t mind the crumbs!

Our first amuse/tapas was braised pigeon wings served with an apple sauce. We grabbed the little things with our fingers and gnawed away every last bit of flesh before mopping up the sauce with that excellent bread.

Pigeon Wings

The first course was an incredibly tender seared salmon fillet in a smoked tomato sauce. We suspected it had been first cooked sous vide but forget about any analysis – just eat. Eat and wonder if they’d give you a second plate of the same thing.

Salmon in a Smoked Tomato Sauce

It was at this point that more bread was brought to our table without our even asking. Those sauces! Not a drop was left on our plates.

For the second courses, the fish was monkfish with artichokes. You may want to note that portion sizes here run a little smaller than at your typical lunch joints but gosh, are the dishes fantastic here. The monkfish was perfectly cooked and served in a creamy sauce with a surprise slab of thick melting bacon underneath and fried artichoke slices on top.

Monkfish with Artichokes

The lamb was equally excellent, with mangetout, Japanese mushrooms, and kimchi! Yes, kimchi! I definitely didn’t expect to find it here; its strong flavour worked so well with the lamb.

Lamb with Kimchi

An unexpected cheese course came along at this point. A very strong local goat’s cheese (if my memory is correct) was served on little toasts with a homemade apple compote alongside.

Cheese

Desserts! The mousse of mató was topped with an apple sorbet and lots of little bits and pieces of various textures. Candied fruit, chewy jellies, blueberries and meringue. This was incredibly refreshing.

Mató Mousse

The brownie was made with chestnut (maybe it was more of a blondie?) and served with ice cream, caramelised banana and toffee and scattered with crushed popcorn. Oh, and yes, under a sheet of glass sugar!

Chestnut Brownie

Coffees were then proffered (a Japanese green tea in Blai’s case) and alongside we were offered onion financiers. We thought we didn’t hear properly but nope, that’s right! Savoury onion financiers! A bit of a surprise but still delightful.

Onion Financiers

By the end of the meal, chef seemed to have warmed up to us and waved us off with a big smile! In hindsight, I’d call it a Mediterranean restaurant with Japanese influences – but whatever it is, it’s excellent. And I haven’t told you the best part yet: it’s €20 for the menú del dia, including bread, water, wine, and coffee (the evening menus don’t include bread and drinks). If you’re visiting this beautiful city, go!

Somodó
Ros de Olano, 11
Gràcia
Barcelona 08012

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When we’re in Barcelona for the summer, we always visit Blai’s extended family out in a village in the Alt Penedès. It’s wine country and everywhere you turn you’re surrounded by vineyards, vines dripping with white or red grapes. Quite often we’ll eat in Cal Padrí, a restaurant we’ve seen rise from what was originally a large chicken shed, and we’ve seen the restaurant grow in popularity since it opened, both with locals there for the weekday menú del dia or non-locals out for a special day with a special menu or lost tourists who are looking to retrace the cava route they planned. Yeah, I wasn’t there but Blai had to help out some lost tourists while he was having lunch there one day; lots of the wineries in the region now welcome visitors. And Cal Padrí is indeed a lovely place to stop for lunch if you’re in the area.

On our last visit, it was a Sunday and hence the menú del dia wasn’t available. There was a weekend menu or what we all opted for, the menú degustació. This tasting menu consisted of three first courses, two second courses and two desserts…and all for €26,50. And that included bread, water and the house wine. Definitely a bargain as you’ll soon see. And not everyone at the table even has to order it.

We started with a little snack of pa de vidre (rubbed with tomato and oil for pa amb tomàquet naturally) and topped with slices of fuet. A good and classic start.

Pa de vidre amb fuet

Then the tasting menu began proper. Amanida de perles de foie amb maduixa i reduccio de vinaigre – A salad of foie pearls with strawberry and vinegar reduction. I’ve never thought much about strawberries in salads but they were perfect in here, a lovely fresh and slightly sour foil to the rich foie.

Amanida de perles de foie amb maduixa i reduccio de vinaigre

Coca de farigola amb seito i ceps confitada – A thyme coca with anchovy and confited porcini mushrooms. This was wonderful. I love flatbreads and flatbreads topped with delicious things are always welcome.

Coca de farigola amb seito i ceps confitada

Raviolis de mascarpone i alfabrega amb daus de tomaquet fresc – Mascarpone and thyme ravioli with diced fresh tomatoes. Those tomatoes are certainly fresh as they have a kitchen garden on the other side of the parking lot!

Raviolis de mascarpone i alfabrega amb daus de tomaquet fresc

Llom de bacalla amb crema d’Idiazabal i patata xip violeta – Cod with Idiazabal cheese sauce and purple potato chip. This was one of my favourite dishes with lots of creamy cheesy sauce with the mild cod.

Llom de bacalla amb crema d'Idiazabal i patata xip violeta

Anec mut del Penedes criat a Cal Padri rostit amb prunes i pinyons. KM0 – Roasted Muscovy duck from the Penedès with prunes and pine nuts. This is the signature dish of the restaurant as it uses ducks they raise on the premises (the farm has been there for years). The cooking style is very Catalan – the duck is roasted in pieces in its own juices along with the fruit and nuts. It’s simple but very satisfying. The ‘KM0’ denotes the distance the ingredients have traveled!

Anec mut del Penedes criat a Cal Padri rostit amb prunes i pinyons. KM0

And then there were desserts! On the left is Copa de mousse de xocolata blanca amb gelatina de mango – A homemade cup of white chocolate mousse with mango jelly. On the right, “Ou sorpresa de Cal Padri” – their “Surprise Egg” of meringue with vanilla ice cream. Both simple but both good.

Postres

Overall, a tasty tasting menu and quite a fun way to dine if you’re here on a weekend.

I’ve been a few times already in the past and each time I’d had their menú del dia, the lunch menu of the day – made up always of two dishes (the first is usually a vegetable/rice/pasta and the second usually a meat/fish) plus dessert, bread, water, and wine. I’ve just highlighted some of the dishes they offer here. This is all very typical everyday Catalan eating and it’s all very well cooked here.

A typical Catalan amanida (salad)

Salad

A saltejat (think stir-fry or saute) of green beans with piquillo peppers

Saltejat de Mongeta Verda amb Pebrot Piquillo

A simple but typically Vilafranca/Catalan fideuà

Fideuà

Spaghetti with cherry tomatoes and basil

Spaguetis amb Tomaquet Xerri i Alfabrega

Chicken wings with garlic and potatoes

Alas de Pollastre al Allet amb Patata

Stewed lean beef with mushrooms

Daus de Carn Magra amb Bolets

Homemade yoghurt cake with chocolate sauce

Coca D'Iogurt amb Salsa Xocolata

Crema Catalana

Crema Catalana

Now there’s the matter of actually getting there. Cal Padrí’s address states that it’s in Castellvi de la Marca, which is really a municipality in the Alt Penedès. Technically, it’s in a village that’s really only made up of three houses. The proprietor said that everyone really finds the restaurant using Google Maps. And so I’ll recommend that too. Also, you’ll need a car or a taxi.

Cal Padrí

Cal Padrí
Masia Cal Gori s/n.
08732 Castellví de la Marca
(Barcelona)

The closest large town is Vilafranca del Penedès.

I can’t speak for the rest of Spain but the menú del dia (menu of the day) can be found at lunchtime, lunch being the main meal of the day, in most restaurants in Barcelona and Catalonia and usually comprises two courses (don’t think of it as a starter and main course but two separate dishes served one after the other), dessert, bread, and a drink (usually bottled water, beer or wine) and occasionally coffee. There’s a fixed price and usually a short menu from which to choose your two courses plus dessert. They will always cost less than ordering a la carte and they’re usually an affordable way of trying some of the more expensive restaurants. If you’re lucky, the menu will change often – La Pubilla is one of those places, offering a daily changing lunch menu based on what looks good that day at Gràcia’s Mercat de la Llibertat located across from the restaurant.

La Publilla’s menú del dia did include some delicious olives and fantastically crusty bread.

Olives Bread

We ensured that between the two of us, there would be no overlap in ordering. The Patates amanides amb vinegreta de bisbe negre (potato salad with bisbe negre vinaigrette) didn’t sound exciting to me (I pictured a thick and heavy mayonnaise based potato salad) but what arrived was light and insanely good. A boiled potato had been sliced up and topped with a dressing made of bisbe negre (a black sausage), tomatoes, pine nuts and spring onions. I’ve certainly not had a potato salad like this but I wish to have more.

Patates amanides amb vinegreta de bisbe negre

The Espaguetis amb tomàquet, anxova i nyores (spaghetti with tomato, anchovy and nyora peppers) was topped with a snowy covering of grated parmesan. A creamy pea and mint soup was another first course available that day.

Espaguetis amb tomàquet, anxova i nyores

From the three available second dishes, we first chose the Bacallà amb samfaina (salt cod with samfaina, a Catalan stewed vegetable mixture made up of onions, peppers, aubergines and tomatoes – it’s not dissimilar to a ratatouille). The thick chunk of cod had been fried and it’s traditionally served with samfaina, the sweetness of the vegetables pairing well with the salty fish. This modern presentation was beautiful, with the red pepper foam and black olive drizzle.

Bacallà amb samfaina

Our other second course was Cap i pota amb cigrons (literally “head and feet” with chickpeas). Bits and pieces from the pig’s top to tail had been stewed together with chickpeas and made for a comforting stew, thickened just by the gelatin and collagen from the trotters used. A hamburger was the third option and it was very popular and looked amazingly plump and juicy as it was brought to diners around us (I hope it’s still on the menu next time!).

Cap i pota amb cigrons

We were pretty stuffed already but soldiered on with the desserts. A Pastís de xocolata was an ethereally light chocolate brownie slice with a not very light chocolate sauce – I’m still dreaming about this cake.

Pastís de xocolata

I knew not what to expect from the Plàtan amb taronja (Banana with orange) and was surprised when a bowl of banana slices appeared swimming in a bowl of freshly squeezed orange juice. It’s simple but was actually a perfect refreshing ending to our meal. If you’re wondering, the third available choice for dessert that day was granola with yogurt.

Plàtan amb taronja

And for this delicious modern Catalan lunch? Well, that’s the best part of the menú del dia, its affordability. At La Pubilla, a set lunch was only 13€ – a total bargain. They’re only open for breakfast and lunch and it’s very popular, making drop in lunches a bit difficult. Do book in advance or come early or be prepared to wait; when we went at about 2pm, there was still space at the bar and we ate there.

La Pubilla
Plaça Llibertat, 23
Gràcia
Barcelona
Spain

That rounds up the posts from my trip to Barcelona over Easter. All my photos from this trip can be found in this Flickr photoset.

After we met a deadline last week, I and two friends decided to treat ourselves with a nice long lunch and headed to Casa Brindisa, the newest restaurant of the Spanish Brindisa chain, open only for about 3 months. While their tapas were a bit too expensive for a weekday lunch, we had seen the advertisement of an affordable set lunch, similar to the menu del dia in Spain, and this is what we had. The set lunch menu has three choices for starters, three for mains, and two desserts. Between the three of us, we tried almost everything that day.

I started with the Escalibada with anchovies. This dish was served cold but it was quite flavourful. There was a hint of smokiness to the aubergines, the peppers were silky and slippery, and the onions were rich and soft. A couple slices of roasted garlic were interspersed with the other vegetables and were a tasty punch alongside the anchovies.

Escalibada with Anchovies

Here’s the Fish and rice soup with clams. I had a small taste and it had quite a deep, fish stock flavour and I think I could have made a meal of just that and bread. My friend gave it quite a high accolade, deeming it to be as good as her mother’s fish soup.

Fish and Rice Soup with Clams

And this was the Beetroot and blue cheese salad. Not too sure what kind of cheese this was but there was a lot of it for a salad! The only blue cheese listed on their a la carte menu is Picos de Europa so perhaps this was it.

Beetroot and Blue Cheese Salad

My second dish was the Pork chop with broccoli. Nothing terribly fancy here: it’s a well cooked pork chop served with some steamed broccoli tossed with some garlic oil and sprinkled with pimenton.

Pork Chop with Broccoli

And here’s the Grilled tuna with vegetables and rocket. I didn’t have a taste but my friend was very happy with it! Looking at the photo now though, I wonder what happened to the rocket.

Grilled Tuna with Vegetables

The final main course option was Scramble [sic] eggs with potatoes and spinach – sorry, no photo as no one had that!

Again, between us, we tried both the dessert options. Here’s my flan (Cream caramel on the menu). I chose this from the waiter’s recommendation; he said he liked it and that it was made in-house. While tasty, I thought it could be a bit lighter as this one was very heavy on the egg. However, I know that Blai likes his quite eggy!

Flan

And here’s a friend’s Yogurt mousse with blood orange dices. This was absolutely gorgeous – a thick yet light and tart yogurt whipped to a mousse (was whipped cream mixed in?) and topped with small pieces of fresh blood orange.

Yogurt Mousse with Blood Orange

The room we ate in is light and airy and the restaurant itself is quite big, taking up two shopfronts and even having a small shop in the basement. There’s even a small discount at the shop if you present a receipt for the restaurant on the ground floor. Service was lovely and they didn’t bat an eyelid when we requested tap water. In fact, they brought along a whole bottleful of it and did well topping it up everytime it was low. There was no pressure whatsoever to buy a drink and so our lunch remained at the advertised £12.50 for three courses. It’s a little pricey for everyday lunching but once in a while, when I feel like I deserve a treat, I’ll be there!

Casa Brindisa
7-9 Exhibition Road
London SW7 2HQ

Casa Brindisa on Urbanspoon

An aside: You’ve all probably heard of the snow we got in London! Boy, was it fun – and here are all my photos from yesterday.