You aren’t likely to have heard of Embat. It isn’t new, setting off the predictable flurry on Social Media that can generate initial business. The chef is not famous by association, none of that “the chef used to work at (fill in the blank) therefore this restaurant is worth a visit”. The interior is nondescript, it could have come out of a contemporary/agreeable start your own restaurant kit with the only stand out feature being metallic branches adorned with bare lightbulbs that jut about the space.
Even a google search will throw up the wrong listing.
No, the only way you are likely to hear about Embat is if a friend tells you about it.
Or if I do.
I’m (happily) well endowed in the gastro friend department. One, in particular, is a sophisticated gourmand. The kind of person who stuffs a goose with chanterelles and who uses caul fat to ensure her truffled chicken ballotine stays moist. Sometimes, she has a more discerning eye than my own. She is someone who cycles instead of drives and is a constant source of good, reliable eats in the city.
“I remember this place having good food,” she says as I sit down to face her.
“Well, they don’t have a menu del dia.” I remark, turning over the menu.
The first time we eat there together, she orders a salad and I order a soup. Soup, I think, is one of the most telling dishes. It’s simple to make so there is a tendency for careless. Not cooking the onions long enough or alternatively catching some. Both resulting in an unpleasant almost chemical effect, like the unwelcome sour tang of a smoker’s breath. Then there are the extra steps one can take to move a soup from warming to special. Passing it through a fine sieve, being generous with cream and salt, crisping up some wafer thin pancetta as garnish. All this has been done with my potato soup which is velveteen and rich.
The same care has been take with Sarah’s salad. The leaves have been dressed before being assembled, the green beans are crisp and green. Interspersed beneath some of the leaves are squirts of thick creamy dressing. Punctuating bites now and again like a well-formed paragraph.
The second time I eat there, I eat alone. I order artichokes that come warm with a green Romesco and an anchovy draped over each artichoke stem, like a dangling earring. I have tender meatballs to follow with fat shrimp in a rich sauce – surf and turf.
With food that tastes like this, I expect a lot more explanation – to hear about what the chef is trying to achieve. But there is none of that. You order your food, the waitress brings it to you, when you pay your bill, you thank her and tell her it was very good and she says “Thank you.” in return. Delightfully absent of ego.
“Oh – I’ve always been meaning to ask – why is the place called Embat?”
“Because the chef was in Mallorca during the windy season – which is called Embat and this restaurant in on Carrer de Mallorca.” And with that, she’s off.
Carrer de Mallorca, 304
Other understated but good restaurants on the blog:
Bambarol – Catalan Bistro in Sant Gervasi
Petit Pau – Seasonal, accomplished food in Sans.
Norte – Galician and Basque style food, peerless ingredients, seasonal.