With so many restaurants in the city of Barcelona, it is truly difficult to make a selection. Certainly you can check out review sites or some suggestions from bloggers who live there, but the most reliable indicator of a good restaurant, for me is to take a look at what's on the tables and if it's at all possible, try to inhale the aromas. Smell is such a strong component of taste, I find myself relying on it more and more. This, however, is not what drew me to MariscCo in the Placa Real, just off La Rambla. It was a starter that caught my eye, a Zucchini Mille Feuille with Hummus.
The eye appeal alone caused one woman to stop at our table and ask what it was that I had ordered. It did not take long to refocus my attention and take the first bite. It was surprising. The thinly cut zucchini strips wrapped the hummus into two basket weave bundles on the plate, with diced, marinated tomatoes added for color as well as flavor. The olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and dried oregano marinade had been evident upon visual inspection, but the cumin, added with a light touch, was the punctuation needed to make sense of the chef's intention in this Middle Eastern, Mediterranean fusion salad.
MariscCo's gazpacho was as good as any other we have tried this week, accompanied by the traditional condiments of croutons, onions, and bell peppers. It was their Patatas Bravas that stood out from the others we had ordered; finally there was enough heat in the sauce which was a combination of a pepper sauce and mayonnaise drizzled on separately. The potatoes were especially tasty because of the oil that had been used in their frying process.
Their Ensalada Altun was traditional rather than inspired and could have been better with something other than balsamic vinegar. We have yet to see a wine or sherry vinegar in Barcelona, and considering the proximity to Banyuls, just over the border in France, we haven't seen Banyuls vinegar either. The balsamic adds a sweetness that doesn't work especially well with the tuna.
Because it was hot and humid, I opted for a tuna carpaccio with avocado. Served with micro greens, black sesame seeds and honey, this didn't quite work either. What is the attraction of pairing tuna with something sweet? Giving it a chance, my position was only strengthened. Once I eliminated the honey which was mercifully drizzled on the other side of the plate, the dish was much better. The carpaccio was actually a tartare with inclusions of green olive and carrot, neither of which made any perceptible difference in taste, though they did improve the texture. Served with baguette toast, it was refreshing and perfectly suited for warm weather.
Dessert was a simple and small Creme Catalan; I've never seen a smaller baking dish. It amounted to an under cooked Creme Brûlée, less rich with a texture more like pudding than custard, so the size turned out to be advantageous.
On another afternoon we returned with family members to try the Lobster Paella, which we had seen being served on our first visit. The paella tasted as memorable as it had smelled, and we were happy to have been lured back to MariscCo by this traditional Catalan paella. The waiter even seemed proud to be serving this signature dish of the restaurant.
The Galician Octopus, dressed in olive oil and paprika, with a sprinkling of course sea salt, seemed slightly undercooked, though flavorful. The skin was gelatinous and a bit off putting in texture, so the less adventurous of us at the table ceased trying it after one nibble. As a classic Spanish tapa, it would be well worth a try. Others we tried during the trip were cooked longer than this example and were delicious.
Although the steak was cooked to order and medium rare as requested, it was cut about half as thin as we had expected. It was a decent enough value, but I was reminded that I've seldom been pleased with steaks in Europe with the exception of Chianina beef in Florence.
Although dining al fresco along the porticos Placa Real was our preference, I took a walk inside the large dining room and discovered an “art piece” of Salvador Dali riding a baby rhino. It was as surreal as anything he had created especially in situ. A mention was made of it in the menu and it seems he once butchered a tiger here when the building space was a taxidermy shop, then commissioned the dissection of a baby rhino. Knowledge of this may have hindered the enjoyment of our meals had we been sitting in the dining room.
|Placa Real 8|
|Barcelona, Spain 08002|
|+93 412 4536|