As I feared, much lauded Bar Pinotxo was a no go at the Boqueria. Not because it’s slim on seating and I fear crowds and tall backless stools, but because it was shuttered for the August “vacation.” Luckily, there are a handful of tapas bars scattered throughout the market and nearby Kiosko Universal was bustling and open for business. As we walked past the counter, two seats magically opened up and I grabbed them.
Then we had the task of trying to decipher the tiny type Spanish menu scrawled on the blackboard over the stoves. I couldn’t make out a lot of the words, but something with garbanzos and spinach jumped out. I love the chickpea and blood sausage recipe from New Tapas: Culinary Travels With Spain’s Top Chefs that was adapted from Bar Pinotxo, so I figured Kiosko might do good things with nubby legumes too. Laced with chunks of pork, the rich, oily vegetable duo made a hearty first course. I then noticed that practically everyone around us had the same dish. It was popular with good reason.
Next, we went the “what do you recommend route” which I never do in NYC because here I know what I want. It was decided that we’d try a mixed seafood plate because that seemed to be their thing and I like surprises. There weren’t any bad surprises in Barcelona (at least not food-wise. Being cut off from the internet for a week because our hotel was in no hurry to fix it was unexpected. I did begin to see the beauty of the Blackberry, though I’m still not ready to give in to a cell phone or PDA of my own).
A few minute later we were presented with what might be the world’s tiniest clams, shrimp, squid, a white fish (I’m not knowledgeable enough to figure out fish types by look and taste) and what I’ve since discovered were razor clams. I had no idea they were skinny and wormy like that but was glad to have been introduced to a new shellfish in its most basic form.
I’ll admit to not being much of a “let the food speak for itself” ingredient purist. I like spices and sauces (though I draw the line at Red Lobster cheese on everything madness). Here, I finally got the appeal of simple grilled seafood enhanced by salt, olive oil and parsley. Nothing good can come of creamy honey BBQ sauce on your fish.
Kiosko Universal * Rambla 91, Barcelona, Spain