Monday, April 25, 2011

Flowers and Sardines for Lunch at Comerç 24, Barcelona

I experienced a touch of edible luxury at Comerç 24, started by a former El Bulli chef.
The salad entree at Comerç

Prix fixe lunch was 76€ ($110). Instead, I opted for à la carte since, unfortunately, I don't eat some of the items that were on the menu. How tragic it seemed that I don't eat squid, octopus, and pig parts since they are specialties in Barcelona.  Good thing for me that cod and sardines are also delicacies.                                                                             

First came bread with four types of olive oil.  Then came a fat cigarette-shaped roll, delicately fried. When I bit into it, a creamy cheese, light as foam and scented with lemon, gushed out inside my mouth.

Next came small bowl of clear fluid, the color of lemon juice, with an edible foam-like puff inside--a refreshing palate cleanser.  With these two mini-starters, I felt like I was indeed eating at the restaurant of an El Bulli alumnus.

Then came the sardines, with skinned orange slices and, supposedly, wasabi. I did not taste the wasabi.  But it did not matter. This was an exceptional dish.  Raw sardines, enhanced with a splash of citrus! Now I was living! Now I was in Barcelona! 
Sardines in a meadow of greens and slivers of orange
I could not leave having tried just one dish here and was very curious about the 26€ salad.  What did a $38 (US) salad look like?  Was it flecked with gold? Did it promise eternal youth? So I ordered it.  
With pinenuts, petites fraises, asparagus, peeled cherry tomatoes and edible flowers, it was certainly the most beautiful salad I have had, delicately bitter, sweet and tangy at once.  

I can get salad mixes with gorgeous edible flowers from the farmers' markets here.  But to recreate the salad from Comerç24 would require considerably more skill.  How do you make a dressing that does not overpower the flavors of the greens and fruit, yet has a distinct flavor of its own?  Apply just the right amount of dressing so as to gently coat rather than drench the salad? Prepare the tomatoes, pinenuts and asparagus so their textures and flavors complement rather than dominate the rest of the salad? All these minute details were taken care of by Comerçe24.  

Alas superfine details are the difference between places like Comerç and the rest.  

Eating the gorgeous food here, I felt for a moment like a queen.  Just for a moment...which is what a higher-end food experience can do.  

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