You could eat at a different Mexican restaurant in Barcelona every day for six months and not have to eat at the same place twice. That’s how many Mexican restaurants there are in Barcelona. A lot. There are vegan ones. There are hyper fancy ones with an Adria involved. California style Mexican. Seafood Mexican. The choice is impressive.
Oaxaca Restaurant falls under the ‘authentic’ category. It’s high end but not molecular (go to Hoja Santa for that). The grasshopper on your roast elote is just that. An insect. Not something else made to look like an insect. And it’s supposed to be there. Oaxaca have gone to great trouble to get that grasshopper and accompanying friends to strew atop your plate. Because a grasshopper by another name is a chapuline and is a common snack in Mexico. They are toasted with garlic, lime juice and agave worm leaving a sour-spicy-salty taste. Rather nice it turns out.
Even if you opt out of the bug buffet, there is still plenty of fun in the food. Like with the guacamole. You have to order the guacamole. It comes with a human pushing a trolley. The avocados are selected from a pile and prodded gently. Before being disembowelled into a large Molcajete and blended with flavourings you pick. It’s served with totopos and chicharrón (a fried pork skin).
There is more. The kitchen is visible through a large and smaller window. Fashioned to look like a street stall with it’s shutter up. The chefs inside are in constant motion. There is a hard graft involved in making tortillas and tacos from scratch which is how everything is made at Oaxaca.
The tacos are delicious. Wether it’s the open faced tortillas with deep red tuna and fried leek scattered on top. Or the more traditional al pastor tacos. The latter topped with a rectangular wedge of sweet grilled pineapple.
Besides the theatrics in the kitchen and the plate, the space itself is well considered. There are plenty of kooky nooks and intriguing corners. A trip to the lavatory is a good way to explore the space and see what everyone else is eating.
Next door is the Mezcalería a popular evening and weekend destination. A friend takes her Mexican aunt there and tells me her aunt found the food as good as, if not better than her native country. Which is funny because the chef, Joan Bagur, is originally from Menorca. His origins seem besides the point when eating here. He has gone as far as to cultivate a Mexican garden. He grows Jalapeños, Poblanos, Nopales and more to supply to the restaurant daily.
The only time I found things lost in translation was with the hot cheesecake dessert served with a salty Chamoy sauce. I should have ordered the chocolate mole cake. That’s the one everyone says is the best.