I read a great article by Tim Harford in the FT on multitasking. He wrote about the “Zeigarnik effect” – ‘that when we leave things unfinished, we can’t quite let go of them mentally.’ For me, my tasks are like suitcases on a conveyor belt, I take suitcases off regularly but they keep piling up. Mano Rota was on that conveyor belt for a long time with constant prodding to visit it when there would be another chirp on some social media outlet.
The name refers to the expression tener la mano rota or as the waiter explained to me ‘to have a knack for’. Which is a rather smug name: a bit like prompting someone to spray you with water because you’re so hot, they’re going to hear a sizzle.
So that’s where I am at. I’ve finally made a booking, I’ve seen plenty of Instagram photos and I am waiting for the sizzle. Oh and there’s this, I’ve made plans to meet a woman who is a reader of the blog and a chef.
Funny folk chefs, to withstand and thrive in the heat and the visceral energy of a kitchen they tend to have a clearly delineated personality with a thick outline you can almost touch. They don’t mince their words, nor do they use a lot of them – they communicate quickly and clearly. All this to say that after an hour and a half lunch with Sarah (the former chef and owner of Tapioles 53) I feel as if I have known her for years. That’s the first thing.
And the second is: I’ve been so drawn to her effusive personality that I haven’t taken in as much as I normally would.
We start off with yuca croquetas (€4.5), they are smaller than a quail egg and on a fancy contraption with a mayonnaise hat. I generally put up with complicated serving receptacles in high-end restaurants because that is part of the show in Barcelona but I prefer less fidley presentations. There is a ‘stracciatella’ of eggplant (€9.5), burrata in a glass bowl, with a few chunks of oven dried eggplant, a blanket of savoury (ish) praline and a separate glass bowl of mizuna leaves.
Across the table, Sarah raises her eyebrows.
But then. Octopus (€14.50). One tentacle, crusty on the outside, tender on the inside draped with some savorous slivers of pork fat, smudges of miso and mustard on the side.
And more. A melting hunk of pork jowl (€13), the fat like cream, the skin crispy and sticky, the meat fork tender. They mentioned apricots on the menu and there they are, little puddles of blended apricot redundant in their plainness.
Sarah instructs the waiter to have the kitchen surprise us with dessert. They send us a fruits of the forest / white chocolate interpretation: poached fruit, a snail of white chocolate ganache and fresh fruit on top. Simple in presentation and flavour – to my mind disconsonant with the laboured croquetas.
So there you have it, there are heavenly notes of brilliance from the two Hofmann Culinary School alumni at Mano Rota interspersed with some plain Jane moments.
See this and more addresses on my Foodie in Barcelona Map
Carrer de la Creu dels Molers, 4
08004 Poble Sec