A few weeks ago, after a good but pricey lunch at Ikoya restaurant, I convinced myself and possibly you that Barcelona was careening towards the unsympathetic side of prices for eating out. Then, shortly after that, a friend and I ate our way through a 9-course menu for 50€. The surprise was that I hadn’t even heard about the place, to the point that I accidentally went to the site of their original restaurant Brugarol in the Gothic quarter, close to the old synagogue.
We chose to have lunch in the small restaurant. The menu is KM0 – Spain’s version of Slow Food. The service is delivered by a sole young Italian waiter. He is visibly pleased on behalf of his employers that we were enjoying the food so much that we ask for bread to mop up juices.
The 9 courses are Catalan fusion. A tricky combination- some of the most exceptional restaurants in the city- places like Compartir, bomb spectacularly when treading onto this territory. Compartir (which I loved) has a cringe-inducing dish of whole fish estilo asiático- rendered thus by strewing the fish with fresh coriander and basil, bathing it in fish sauce with some shards of ginger to seal the deal. It’s the first dish I would edit out and Compartir would be the better for it.
Brugarol X wants to go there. Not just dip its toes in to test the water but get its hair wet. At least Brugarol X has had the presence of mind to focus on a specific region, Japan. The menu starts with a play on Chawanmushi, a delicate steamed egg custard, at Brugarol X, it comes in the shell, with some chewy umami-rich brown things on top. I could eat 5.
The Corvina sashimi is the reason we need the bread. Although while waiting for it to arrive we inelegantly bring the plate to our lips and sip (slurp) off the contents. The tuna tartar is served on a sheet of crispy fried wonton. Turbot comes with a seaweed salad and yuzu. Our slices of Black Angus cook gently in the Shabu Shabu. And miso finds its way into the fluffy caramel mousse that ends the meal.
It is very good. The Japanese accents enhance the Catalan ingredients but don’t trespass onto any edible Catalan iconography. There isn’t a miso crema Catalana for instance.
The restaurant proper is unremarkable. Generic to the point that I am convinced I have eaten here when it was something else (I have not, it was not). It’s small, and narrow, with heavy yellow light from the orange filament bulbs that dot the space. Black and white photographs of an estate that is linked to the restaurant are placed high on the wall.
None of it matters much. The tasting menu is good enough that it can stand away from a designer interior or a gaggle of servers. We are sitting at a table on the street and even the traffic noise can’t distract us from the food.
All this to say Barcelona is fine. We are – fine. There are plenty of places that remain our little secret. Just not those across from Santa Caterina market perhaps.
C/ Corsega 231