Saturday, June 27, 2009

Barcelona Eats: La Bodegueta Provenca

North of Las Ramblas and the Placa de Catalunya lies the Passeig de Gracia, which features a couple of Gaudi-designed private residences. One can probably assume that these were posh places at the time, and that descriptor still applies to the area. High end shopping features extensively in L'Eixample (Chanel, Gucci, etc alongside cheaper faves like Muji, the ubiquitous Zara and Mango), which brings with it plenty of fine eats.

After a day of walking for hours on end, there's nothing quite as appealing as a busy local eatery in a well-groomed neighbourhood, and La Bodegueta fit that bill. The restaurant's main location is on Rambla de Catalunya, and known for its wine/vermouth selection and charcuterie. The place is small and cramped, with patrons lining up outside amidst the smokers. The overflow goes to their second location, which is kitty corner to it on Provenca.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I love, love, love to drink outside. Which means I love, love, love to eat outside. The strict bylaws/zoning/bullshit that limit sidewalk cafes, restaurants, etc. in Canada don't seem to have any historical root in Europe, so wtf? Is it the cold? We gots to get right with that shit. Anyway, we ate outside, with the daily specials board behind us. Again, as with many places, the daily specials almost outnumber the items on the regular menu, so it's always hard to narrow down our choices.

Not being able to read Spanish is definitely a handicap: we really should have brought a Spanish/English dictionary with us, and there don't seem to be any good (read: free) ones on the iPhone apps. We told our waitress that we wanted sardines, and had picked something out on the menu. She explained that most of our picks were from the 'non-fresh' (ie canned/preserved) menu, but recommended these sardines (out of numerous choices) to us. It's weird eating canned food that's just as tasty as fresh food, but there ya go.

We also picked a few things off the dailies list, figuring that they were probably the freshest items for the day. Our waitress took time to attempt a translation: apparently the different kinds of clams have different names in Spanish. These were the meatier, juicier type of clams with a darker and thicker shell, lightly tossed in olive oil and cooked over the stovetop or grill until they opened. Simple and great, with just the right amount of char on the shells to give a great scent and taste to them.

I also knew that I really wanted some squid or octopus. Perfectly cooked squid or octopus is a holy wonder to behold. Tender instead of rubbery, these baby octopus were sauteed in red wine, garlic and olive oil, with a hint of smokiness to them. Probably among the best octopus we had in Spain.

We also hadn't tried any suckling pig yet, which seemed totally wrong and needed rectification. This was a more contemporary take on it, with candied pineapples to pair. I cannot emphasize how great the skin was on the pork: nice and crispy and salty. I seem to remember the sauce being apple-y or pineapple-y.

After days of eating as much as humanly possible, we toned it down for this one. Probably because we had dessert, chocolate and churros and tapas midway through the day, or maybe not. Overall, this was a great casual place for when you still want great food but without much fuss, instead of mere sustenance, and a good no hassles pick out of a neighbourhood of higher end dining.

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