MAKING LIFE MORE PALATABLE:
Barcelona. Tapas. 2 chefs who trained under the Adria Brothers. Rioja Blanca. Tuna Belly. Razor Clams. Patatas Bravas. ‘Hamburger.’ Iberico Skewer. Chocolate Bar. Champagne. I almost OD’d.
After searching through Yelp reviews and ratings, I decided to celebrate being able to use my credit card again, at a tapas bar a mile or so away from my place. I actually remember walking by earlier in the day, which speaks to what the place looks like on the outside. A lot of the places in Barcelona, except for the super touristy area of La Rambla, are understated, however this place looked like Hunter S. Thompson drew cartoons of food all over the walls during an acid trip. With bright colors, cartoons of waiters and fairy tale characters, I couldn’t tell if this was a tourist trap or a legitimate restaurant.
After making the beautiful walk into the Poble Sec neighborhood of Barcelona, my senses were heightened and on the verge of tears with every step. I almost felt like some raver at EDM, rolling my balls off, saying how beautiful Tiesto’s music is with salty fluid running down my face. It was just an awesome experience. The entire patio was packed and only a few deserted tables peppered inside the ample sunken dining room. I would say 100 people or more. By the way it was 9:45 PM…on Wednesday.
I ordered a bottle of Rioja Blanca and think I scared the waitress because I’m all by myself and about to drown my sorrows with this vino. I told her in my best Americanized Spanish, ‘It’s going to be a good night.’ I immediately laughed at myself because I know aside from having dinner, I’m going to go back to an empty flat, alone, and not be able to fall asleep til the wee hours of the morning.
I ordered the tuna belly bowl, patatas bravas, and grilled razor clams.
The tuna came out first and for some reason I was expecting raw tuna belly, probably because of the hundreds of thousands of tuna bowls I’ve devoured from the many Asian Markets I frequent. They’re like my strip clubs. I was a bit apprehensive about the tuna because it undoubtedly came out of a can or jar, but it was delicious. Along with the fish, there were large chunks of heirloom tomatoes. Pickled peppers, which tasted like a spicy green bean. And thinly sliced raw onions, that were the sweetest and most non-oniony onion I’ve ever tasted. The olive oil everything was drowning in was out of this world. So sweet and delicate, it enhanced everything on the plate without taking it over. Like bringing a 30 pack of beer to a frat party that has Jungle Juice. Everyone’s there for the Jungle Juice, but the beer makes things better.
Then the razor clams came. Where the fuck have razor clams been all my life? They look like short udon noodles in their shells, but are packing so much more in both flavor and texture. Like a nerdy dot-com millionaire who has a big dick. I read somewhere that the toothpick is the most essential part of a traditional Spanish tapas meal, so I used it to eat each delicious razor clam and felt pretty cool. I actually wondered if anyone might have thought I was a local…Yeah, right. I’m wearing a pair of fire engine red jeans and a plaid button up shirt, and my Spanish is shit. I’m not fooling anyone.
I ordered the Patatas Bravas from the ‘Classic’ side of the menu thinking it would be a throw away dish. A boring dish I’ve seen a thousand times on menus and just ordered as filler. It came out and it was boiled potatoes. (Boiled!!) Garlic aioli. Spicy tomato sauce. Olive oil. Sea Salt.
…until I tasted it!
Those crazy Spaniards are idiot savants, or something. They took something so simple and turned it into something I’m not sure could be recreated anywhere else in the world. I’m not one for hyperbole, but I truly feel this way about this dish. The aioli is hands down the best I’ve ever had and the Yukon Gold potatoes are so sweet and not starchy at all. The tomato sauce was ethereal and apparently for good reason. The two guys who own this place, were chef’s under the Adria brothers for years, and apparently use a lot of the same recipes and preparations. The tomato sauce is the same sauce Albert Adria uses at his Michelin starred restaurant, Tickets.
Next I ordered the burger and Iberico pork skewer.
The burger came first and turns out the fuckin’ hamburger is the recipe from Two-Michellin star chef, Dani Garcia. It isn’t a classic hamburger, as Americans would imagine it. But that doesn’t diminish it’s brilliance. Picture finely chopped braised beef shank, short rib, and cheeks, held together with a thick demi glaze and the most perfect crunchy, soft, sour, ciabatta/dinner roll. It was great…
The skewer was better.
Porkier than sucking on Porky Pigs butt-cheek, in the best way possible, and seasoned perfectly. Everyone has pre-conceived notions of what to expect for events in their life. Take your Senior Prom for instance. We all want the hottest date. The limo. The tux. The dress. Putting out at the end of the night. (I know I didn’t get those things for mine.) This was just grilled meat on a stick with definitely more pork than I got on prom night, (Ba-dum-tssh!!!) but it was literally an EVENT in my life. I wont ever forget it.
I was about to order the sponge cake with burnt yolk cream filling, sounded amazeballs, but got talked into the chocolate bar instead. It comes out and it’s literally a brick of chocolate. If there was a magical chocolate goose that shit out chocolate bars, this is what you’d get. It honestly looked like they just poured shiny chocolate ganache over a huge Lego. I wasn’t sure I’d have any more room, but as I ate it, I actually became less full. I asked the waitress what was in it and she said, ‘Chocolate, coffee, liquer, and air. But mostly air.’ I’ve never tasted better chocolate flavored air and I’m really not a big air person. I washed everything down with a crisp glass of champagne, which the waitress said I paired perfectly. I bet she says that to all the sailors she waits on.
I was full and satisfied beyond belief. This night, this meal, this moment in my life, could not have been better. This wasn’t a dinner where I realized I was eating alone, or thought about my ex-girlfriend. It was an experience all my own. This wasn’t one of those meals where you wonder ‘How did they do that?’ or ‘What did they put in that?’ It was super straight forward, hit on every note, and every ingredient could not only be tasted, but seen on the plate as well. I needed this. I was there to get lost in the food, drink, and the city. It’s very seldom when a person, restaurant, team, movie, etc. sets out to do or be something and actually succeed. Casa de Tapas Canotas exceeded all expectations and I would like to formally invite them to my next Senior Prom.