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Kiosko Universal

KioskouniversalAs 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.

Kioskochickpeas 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. KioskoseafoodI 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

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