Story and photos by Manos Angelakis
Tapear in Barcelona!
Our first evening in Barcelona, we went “tapear” i.e. walked from tasca to tasca drinking Catalan red wines and munching on tapas .
We stopped at TAPEO, Assaonadors 25, a rather narrow space with a small seating bar and a few tables where patrons, young thirty- or forty-something locals were sitting or standing three to four deep. The miniscule kitchen at the beck of the space is cramped as four or five cooks work to prepare the fare, but what comes out of it is absolutely exceptional.
Nowadays, the bread tapas I remember from my earlier Spanish forays have been mostly replaced by small cooked plates. Merce Dalmau Cortés, the owner of Clos Galena in Taragona who had come to visit with us was surprised to find that one of her wines, the 2013 Formiga de Vellut was on the wine list. Formiga de Vellut is a blend of Garnacha Negra, Cariñena, and Syrah that I had enjoyed very much a few years back and I now keep in my cellar as it is available in the US. We ordered the Formiga bottle and numerous specialties of the house.
Small plates were delivered and the tabletop was fully covered by delightful surprises. The most memorable were: Chicharones de Cadiz, fried ham slices with sea salt sprinkled on top; the strips of meat tasted like fresh nonsmoked bacon. Rabbit with snails; the rabbit saddle was quick fried and the snails were in an onion, vinegar and tomato ragout. A Rabo de Toro sandwich, slices of which we shared, was tail-of-bull meat in a red wine sauce. Small Catalan saffron beans with cod fish. An unexpected surprise was chips with wassabi – salty, spicy and an excellent pairing for the last gulps of the Formiga.
We finished with a glass of PX (Pedro Ximenez), a sweet, dark and brooding wine that accompanied a chocolate truffle sprinkled with sea salt and small bowls of lemon custard covered with a caramelized top of sugar and half a ripe strawberry. Pure delight!
Carlos Calle, the chef can create magic even within such a limited space.
Then we moved around the corner to TAPEO Bar, Calle de Montcada 29, a slightly larger establishment under the same ownership, but with a different chef, Daniel Rueda. We had more small plates there and the highlight was Sweet Spare Ribs. The ribs are cooked for 3 to 4 hours in a low oven, and then finished on the grill with a hard glaze of honey and mustard. The contrast of sweet and sour, very soft meat and crunchy glaze was incomparable. We also finished another Formiga bottle.
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