1/2 It would’ve been hard to ignore Senyor Parellada since it’s situated in the ground floor of the Banys Oriental where we stayed. After 9:30 pm there’s a perpetual line to get in (even around midnight when they close) and an unmistakable olive oil and garlic aroma wafts through the lobby, hovering near the elevators where a door opens directly into the dining room. That’s the Spain smell. Hong Kong was punctuated by whiffs of five spice and Malaysia would hit you with wafting shrimp paste. I’m not sure what scent sums up America. Don't tell me hot dogs.
We discovered that there’s something a little cruel about Senyor. The menu you’re initially handed (as well as the one in the window) is entirely in Catalan. It’s possible to get the gist of some dishes if you know any Spanish or French, but much of it is impenetrable. I started feeling nervous and squirmy (which wasn't helped by both Italian couples–young and dull on my right and middle aged and frumpy on my left—continuously giving us looks throughout the meal. There's nothing ruder than staring at people when they're eating and I've noticed this behavior before from Europeans in NYC. I don’t know where this stems from, but it’s incredibly off putting. Even if someone’s a midget, missing limbs, or sideshow obese you don’t stare at them, duh) until I realized everyone else in the room had a yellow laminated menu not the colorful paper fold out version. It turned out they have a multilingual menu in French, German, Italian and English (I guess if you’re a strict Spanish speaker you’re shit out of luck).
I couldn't help but notice that one group walked out shortly after being seated, though who knows if language confusion was the reason (this also happened with an American couple who walked in off the street at Cinc Sentits, which to me isn’t the kind of restaurant you casually decide to dine at).
To be honest, I don’t know all the classics of Catalan cuisine so I wasn’t sure what to order. Some of the food seemed to have French leanings, some struck me as very traditional. We split an order of toasted bread with pate, jamon and cheese. James tried bacalao with white beans and I had a duck leg with figs. Dessert had to be crema Catalana, a free form crème brulee that the gentleman next to us scarffed down in seconds (I encountered the same gusto lavished on a serving of paella by an Italian the following afternoon).
From reading a few pre-vacation blurbs, I had expected the brasserie style restaurant to be smaller, dimmer and dowdier. It’s actually comfortably frenetic, crisp, bright (though obviously not bright enough to take decent photos without a flash–candle light isn't conducive to capturing food digitally) and much more reasonably priced than the atmosphere might suggest. I wish that I could try it again now that I know the routine. Week long vacations just aren’t long enough for seconds.
Senyor Parellada * Carrer Argenteria 37, Barcelona, Spain