The caliber of the place is evident when I arrive early to find the staff in a huddle, exchanging the essential information of what dishes to push, whats new, what the reservations list looks like for the day.
That crucial business done, the door is opened and I am greeted by a hostess and a fridge full of quail, hanging from their still feathered heads in neat rows. Seeing that I am eating alone, she gives me an excellent seat at the low bar that looks directly into the open kitchen.
On first glance, the menu seems expensive. No menu del dia and a lot of dishes around the 20-30€ mark. Further down the prices decrease and the chef who is serving me advises me to order 1/2 portions (medio racion) since I am lunching alone so, in the end, my meal is extremely good value.
I start with an individually fried artichoke (1/2 portion 3.25€), opened up to resemble the flower blossom it is, with a romesco sauce. “This sauce first appeared with the Romans.” the chef tells me, quoting the century.
Then it is a vegetable medley, thin slices, furled upon each other in the wood-burning oven (1/2 portion 4.25€). A narrative is delivered alongside each dish. The beans with clams (1/2 portion 6€). The single preserved spicy pepper “we preserve it ourselves in the restaurant.”
Whilst the chef cooking and serving me starts off enthusiastically at the beginning of my meal, he seems to lose steam as the afternoon continues and he has more orders to manage.
I have seen the source of his information, upstairs across from the bathrooms, there is a chalkboard wall with about fifteen A4 sheets affixed to it. A collection of dates, ingredients or recipes and places.
“Champagne, 1668, Dom Perignon.”
“Champiñon de cultivo, S.XVIII, en el siglo XVIII se empieza a cultivar en Francia.”
“Tomate Raf, 1969, Almeira.”
A historical compilation of food and ingredients.
Next to me, a man is eating alone – he doesn’t order but lets the head chef (clean-shaven head with numerous tattoos crawling out from under his collar) choose for him. I’m particularly envious of his board of house-cured meats. The chef tells him about the rice dish (arroz de San Jorge 24€) which it topped with grated bone marrow and shaved mushrooms that taste like watermelon.
“I will have one too please.” I interject quickly.
When it comes, the mushrooms do indeed taste like watermelon, an odd sensation in the absence of the associated juiciness. However, the stock that was used to cook the rice is over-reduced leaving the dish too salty and making it hard to decipher any other flavours.
Raurich is known for a dish of cooked pork nipples which he serves on an upturned ceramic hog. Too sensationalist for me, I get a steamed bun with pork filling (1/2 portion 5€). Served on top of the ceramic hog, it’s about the size of a Yorkshire terrier (the ceramic hog not the bun).
I like the idea of putting food in context. I am not convinced that having the chefs rattle off data is worth the disruption to their work. I have a natural curiosity about these things and I am here to learn and to understand as much as to eat. But what if you just want to eat? These are superior ingredients used in season from the best sources. I should just be able to put it in my mouth and appreciate the difference without contemplating the laborious journey and transformation it has endured to get to my mouth.
Or maybe sometimes there needs to be a show.
Carrer Doctor Dou, 19
08001 El Raval