There is a big hole where Middle Eastern food should be in Barcelona. The Arabs in the city tend to be Moroccan. Moroccans make a good tagine but their food is not Middle Eastern – it is North African.
Enter Parking Pita a new restaurant from Parking Pizza. It shares a space with the second branch of Parking Pizza on Sant Joan. Cavernous rooms painted that parking garage grey that covers floor and wall and stops about mid-chest giving way to a lighter tone. Even more than the first, this restaurant leaves little doubt that it is housed in a former parking garage.
It is from this unlikely source, a pizza restaurant that likes to take over former parking garages, that I have the best approximation of a Middle Eastern pitta yet. I wonder about this? How can it be that what I ate felt authentic to me? Half Jordanian used to eating in the Lebanese restaurants of Paris (excellent) or swinging between the new Middle Eastern restaurants of London (a movement led by Israelis Ottolenghi, Berber & Q, Palomar to name a few) or the more old-fashioned Arab led restaurants of Edgeware-road or Knightsbridge.
What I came up with is this: Middle Eastern food is simple (like Greek food)- things have to be the best. A pitta cooked moments before in a wood-fired oven is essential, falafel crisp enough scrape a bit of skin off your gums, Romaine lettuce that yields water when bitten into. Fresh herbs: the tabouleh here is full of parsley interspersed with oven-dried and fresh tomatoes (4.75€). Spices, they should knock you over the head. Cumin, yes lots, by the teaspoonful. It’s not strictly faithful to the original version. The hand-cut, skin on fries come with pimenton dulce and a harissa salsa (4€). There is a pita filled with tandoor (organic) chicken (7€) – inauthentic but delicious.
My favourite dishes when I go to Jordan are the mezze, the little plates that come before the main course. On the whole, these are vegetarian. At Parking Pitta too – all the sharing plates are veggie. Not insipid “I wish I was eating meat veggie” but striking in flavour and colour. A whole roasted leek split open and glistening with oil (4.75€). Curry roast cauliflower (4€) sprinkled with thyme. A splotch of humus (4.75€). Bar the humus and the babaganoush, none of these dishes are familiar but they uphold the canons of Middle Eastern mezze – fresh, dazzling, flavoursome, vegetable-centric.
I’m eating lunch with friends from Marseille, Montreal & London – they are utterly charmed by the place. We are with children so the ease of not having to reserve, not having to wait long on a table (the place is enormous and failing to snag a seat here, there is always the larger Parking Pizza behind) we all order what we want to eat and share a few dishes, all washed down with an Estrella (no glass please).
Passeig de Sant Joan, 56,