This kind of food never happens here.
What kind is that? Small. 8 seats. Giving it all. I mean going at it and catching you unawares, not for one dish, not two but in continued quick succession. 7 dishes + 2 desserts if you are going for the Direkte Menu (42€) or 10 courses + 2 desserts if you are going for the Boqueria Menu (56€).
Chef Arnau Muñío, his sous (Shu Zhang) are moving. I’m trying to find an opportune moment, a lull in the plating to ask my questions but neither of them is having it. I manage to eke out only that chef Arnau Muñío worked at Carles Abellan for 10 years.
“Why the Asian influence.”
“Because I traveled a lot through Asia and I love it.” He’s off in the physical sense ducking into the fridges but mentally too. I can see his mind indexing and prioritizing tasks of actions to come. Like green HTML text flooding a black screen, Matrix style.
I fill in the narrative myself with the help of a La Vanguardia article. Muñío’s starts with a Catalan base and then applies Korean, Chinese and Japanese accents. And while everyone goes on about market to table, Muñío restricted as he is by his postage stamp restaurant, applies it daily.
The idea is to fill these eight seats four times a day. Two in the afternoon – 13:15 and 15:15 and then two seatings in the evening. The trick to the chefs retaining their sanity and sending out the best version of their dishes is that the menu is served to everyone at the same time and not in the staggered way that is typical in a restaurant.
I figure that this is the format after I receive a call at 13:17 to ask me why I am late for my 13:15 reservation.
In Barcelona, where “I’m running a little late.” can comfortably slip over the half-hour mark without anyone batting an eyelid.
But I get it. The other guests there, a family of Germans (never late) and a Catalan couple are waiting for me and Marwa.
The first dish they give us knocks our senses out. It’s exquisite. A broth, autumnal in theme, with a layer of burnt butter on the surface. To accompany it, a little dish to share pickled trumpet mushrooms, shimejis, and the most incredible white miso. For something so small, it’s quite extraordinary in its impact. It does it all, texture – slippery pickled mushrooms, fatty burnt butter, the umami of the miso – gorgeous.
The marinated sardines with pear kimchi is another one. I know this is a dish I will dream about. That I will want to come back for. One I will remember.
I spend a lot of my time there counting up the dishes I’ve eaten anxiously working out how many I still have.
I don’t want this to end. I want them to keep surprising and delighting me.
We get to dessert. There is a citrus dish, curd, granita, and worm salt – made of ground up tequila worms and salt. So actually worms. Another not Barcelona thing to happen. Weird things like this don’t feature.
Marwa and I let down our guard. We already consider the meal exceptional. Feel chuffed that we’ve come here a mere 6 months after it’s opened. Chef Arnau Muñío puts out our last dessert. Cheesecake, with matcha on top. I scoop the corner off with my spoon to find the inside beginning to ooze out, like a ripe brie, the crust intact and a slow ooze. It’s exquisite.
The following week after we eat there, Arnau Muñío wins Chef of the Year 2018 at the Gastronomic Forum of Girona.
I am not surprised. I think this is the most exciting place to eat in Barcelona right now.
Mercat de la Boqueria,
Pòrtics de la Boqueria,