We definitely couldn’t leave Barcelona without hitting the bars, tapas bars that is. We made it out to two while we were in Barcelona and they did not disappoint. Tapas is as integral a part of Spanish culture as mom and apple pie is to our culture. I’m not sure if the Barcelona scene is as obsessive as it is in Sevilla or el País Vasco but the food is just as good.
The first place we went to was Bar Inopia, opened by Albert Adrià, the former pastry chef at El Bulli and brother of Ferran Adrià. That’s a heady pedigree to live up to and from the reviews and my meal there, there were a few dishes that measured up to the hype. We got there on the early side hoping to score a seat before the evening rush. The main room was closed reserved for what I later found out was some tour/business group of multinationals. Thankfully, they did not foil our plans as there were seats on the street side of the bar so we sat down and got to business.
Neen, with her magic list o’ good things had researched Inopia and said that they were known for their canned foods. Considering that Spain has one of the best canning industries in the world, it was truly a compliment rather than a knock on the place.
We started off with some ventresca de atun (tuna belly) that had been preserved in olive oil. Chicken of the Sea pales in comparison to this preparation and living in Spain oh so many years ago pretty much turned me off to tuna canned with water. The oil keeps the tuna moist and preserves the flavor. It was meaty and silky at the same time.
Next up was Gildas, named after a character played by Rita Hayworth. It’s not unique to Inopia as I saw it in other bars during my travels. Cured anchovies are wrapped around a juicy green olive and a pickled pepper less tart than a pepperoncini added a nice kick at end.
Mejillones in escabeche. Mussels in a spicy vinegar sauce. Also from a can. I’m not a fan of mussels but I guess I’ve finally found my preferred preparation. The texture was firm not mushy and seasonings had punch. As with all Spanish food, nothing was overwhelmingly spicy so you can leave the alka seltzer at home.
I don’t know why I like anchovies so much but we had to order a second dish of the little fishies. Anchovies get such a bad rap in the states since our main contact with it is on pizza and the canned, bony stuff here doesn’t really do them justice. Even the venerable caesar salad rarely has anchovies as an ingredient like it’s supposed to. These tiny fillets were lightly battered, and spiked with lemon giving it a crisp, zesty finish.
Patatas bravas were next, covered in creamy aioli and a spicy red sauce.
Of course, what meal would be complete without some croquetas. These were jamón y pollo I believe and were nice and creamy inside.
Dessert was the ultimate. We ordered strawberries on which they placed a dusting for freshly ground black pepper, a drizzle of a balsamic vinegar reduction, and orange zest. Sounds odd but it was good.
Since Inopia’s menu boasted that flan was a house specialty, we had to order it. They definitely put their custard where their ego was. Damn good. I don’t need to describe it, the visual evidence speaks for itself.