Sunday, February 6, 2011

El Rebost de Maria, Barcelona by Bureaucrat

Dinner at El Rebost de Maria was certainly an education - one that we never quite understood, nor will ever forget. Our hotel staff had recommended ERM as a place for non-touristy Spanish/Catalan food.

We arrived relatively early for dinner at 9pm, and were the first people there for dinner. For us, this was a bad thing, since for everything that was about to happen to us, we wouldn't be able to determine whether what we were experiencing was the norm or not by spying on the other diners. Also, the waiters spoke only basic English.

Descending down the stairs, it felt like we were entering into someone's home. Nice wooden furniture and decorations everywhere.

After ordering our dishes, the waiter brought a bottle of cava and asked whether we wanted some. This is where the evening started to get confusing. Thinking that there's no such thing as a free meal (or drink), we declined.

Then, a plate of marinated olives and baby onions came out, then some plain bread, then some slices of toasted ciabatta that had fresh tomato puree spread on top. We hadn't ordered any of these dishes. I had seen on the menu that the tomato bread is charged per person, but didn't see any of the other stuff listed.

It was at this point, that it became apparent to the Lawyer and I that the evening could be either the most generous experience or the most expensive experience. I was more worried about the price, given that many of the entrees listed on the menu were just as expensive as the mains.

As there weren't any other diners at this point, we still couldn't tell whether this was just part or the service, or whether the waiters were taking the opportunity to make a fat profit off unsuspecting tourists.

Even more confusing, was when we were presented with two appetizers. We tried to gently hint that we didn't order this, but was told in Spanish that this was an appetizer.

I have no idea what this mystery appetizer was, but we both liked it. The orangey/red bit was like a thick, smooth emulsion - kinda like a viscous veloute. Going by the colour, I'm guessing tomatoes, carrot or saffron was in the list of ingredients. It was garnished by a mimosa of boiled egg, bits of cured ham and olive oil.

Finally, something that we actually ordered - our entrees!

The first one was grilled mussels. Gorgeous chargrilled flavour and very sweet mussels. Garnished with a drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice. So simple, so delicious. I'm usually not that much of a fan of mussels, but I could have happily eaten a whole potful!

Next was the cod fritters, which was made with the salted, preserved cod fillets. A bit on the salty side, but it had a nice crispy exterior.

Our mains was the squid ink paella. This was plate-licking good! A perfect paella - lots of fresh, tender squid pieces, garnished with more mussels, a layer of crusty, chewy rice on the bottom. This was served with homemade aioli, which was perfectly creamy, and the garlic helped bring out the flavour of the paella.

Too full for dessert, we got the bill. The total price came out to roughly what we expected. Thankfully, aside from the tomato bread, none of the other dishes and drinks were charged. However, there was a wierd 8 euro charge for 'base imp', which we had no idea what it was for (and it wasn't GST/VAT). But, given that the overall bill wasn't outrageous, we didn't contest it.

As a sweet gesture, we were also offered a complimentary digestif. We chose a non-alcoholic peach and apple syrupy shot.

Easy to walk past the front door, ERM is set slightly below street level, and all the windows were frosted. It's about a 15 minute walk from the bullfighting arena. We didn't realize at the time (it was raining the night we went), but the exterior of ERM is in the architectual style of Gaudi.

I can't fault the food, service and ambiance. What would have made the evening more enjoyable if we actually knew a bit more about fine dining in a Spanish restaurant.

The only thing that I'd make a comment on is the ever so pushiness of the waiters to get us to order wine. I'm not sure if this because Spain has a big wine-drinking culture (or not).

With regard to the free/subsidized(?) drinks and side dishes, I know we must have come across as two clueless, tightwad diners... oh well! =) I'm hoping our tip made up for this! But, as we left, there were more diners, and I did note that they were all offered the same things as us (the cava, breads, olives, appetizers, digestif).

Definitely one of the more pricier, and generous, places that we've been to, but well worth every Euro. Definitely memorable!

El Rebost de Maria
Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes, 439
08015 Barcelona
Telephone: 934 232 199


Anonymous said...

I want to try that Paella!


Bureaucrat said...

it was divine - perfection! they must have used alot of squid ink because.... well, i'll leave that to your imagination... haha!

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