Carrer de la Indústria, 79
Having had a relatively light lunch in anticipation of Alkimia’s tasting menu, midway through the night, we specifically commented on how the portions are quite dainty and tonight’s affair should be a breezy one. But by the time we were onto the last savoury - the divine tartare, we had to admit defeat.
Towering slender stems, with toasted sunflower seeds.
We went with the eight-course tasting menu over the six.
Our amuse was a clean & clear tomato water with velvety olive oil and a heartier jamon slice.
The loaves of bread we encountered in Barcelona, surely deserves to be a course of its own. Tonight, it’s lined by crusty crunchy crusts & embedded with delectable chewy dates, hazelnuts and walnuts.
We could not have foreseen the perfection of the bread that awaited us at Sant Pau the next day.
The simple white asparagus was replaced with a vibrant plate of herbs & florals strewn over sardine strips. The sardine was almost a chameleon, taking on different notes when paired with each sprig or petal.
spaghettini with sea assortment
A tangle of zucchini would serve as our pasta, weaving its way around fresh shellfish with a light bacon crumb.
pickled oysters with pork cheek & spinach
The pork cheek is as gelatinous and smooth as it looks, its softness melting and melding with the creamy fresh oyster for a luxurious bite.
cuttlefish with ink sauce & ginger
At the centre of the whirlpool, the cuttlefish, stark white against the intricacy of its backdrop. The jet black squid ink lined with golden rings of cuttlefish entrails, lifts the simplicity of the cuttlefish, giving it a complexity, a richer intensity that gradually fills your mouth. The ginger refreshes your palate and preps it for more.
The cuttlefish was inconsistent, some were positively melt in your mouth, others not so.
The baby prawns are slippery, very soft & sweet, the sides of the bowl are stained with prawn oil. The prawn broth, is incredibly light & fragrant. Encouraged to take a mouthful, and then for contrast - I was almost reluctant to have its simplicity tainted - with the dollop of whipped lemon cream. And yet it transforms the dish into a richer broth with hints of lemongrass.
prawns with coco beans
The prawn is beautifully plump, in a rich heady red bisque tinged with green oil.
mackerel with vermut & green pepper
The crispy skinned fresh mackerel is astonishingly white & silky, no hint of that strong oily flavour I associate it with. With a deceptively potent fish broth.
fish of the day with black olive & onion
The red bream is silky & lush, the base tinged red by beetroot, with pickled red onion curls and olive crumbs heaped atop sweet onion puree.
Golden chanterelles, soft silky gnocchi & a foamy mushroom broth.
beef & gizzard with vegetables
The beef is the right amount of tender and it melts away so easily it almost becomes a lighter course than you would expect. Garnished with onion rings, zucchini flowers, pickled cauliflower & a pool of viscous campari sauce.
The tartare is buttery soft & smooth, a sensation which is only reinforced by the rough breadsticks.
tomatoes with cucumber gazpacho & sheep milk ice cream
The first of two desserts, the lightness of the sheep’s milk yoghurt worked beautifully with the sweet refreshing cold cucumber gazpacho, with bright bursts of tangy cherry tomatoes. Wiping away the weight of the last two courses, and preparing you for the richness that lies ahead.
fondant chocolate with burnt rum ice cream
The fondant is wonderfully dark and rich in flavour, yet has a whipped feathery sensation giving it a lightness. The burnt rum is barely there, dusted with vibrant orange zest & a crumb for texture.
We finish off with a selection of petit fours - aerated strawberries with whipped cream, mango topped with yoghurt foam, white chocolate coated yoghurt ice cream pops & whirls of chocolate cream on shortbread.
Rias de Galicia
Carrer de Lleida 7
Needless to say the tasting menu at Koy Shunka took up a large part of our afternoon and the plates were relentless. We ended up having a relatively lighter and late dinner at Rias de Galicia. I wasn’t particularly taken by Rias de Galicia, the seafood was fresh but it was cooked so simply it really needed to be impeccable to tee up to how spoilt we were at Tickets and dos Palilos.
razor clams grilled
steamed galician cockles
Very fresh and sweet, a softer supple clam if you will, with lashings of olive oil.
galician pie - sardines and tuna belly
Heavy on the sardines, the pastry is very soft and folds easily.
steamed spiny die-murexes with rosemary & vinaigrette
octopus galician style
Unremarkable in flavour.
line caught hake loin and cuttlefish ink
Fresh and feathery, tainted with dark ink.
lobster blue from galicia with garlic
Emboldened by our encounters thus far, we had full faith that everything would be done to perfection but were left wanting by the lobsters, a tad overdone.
We had started out intending this to be a light bite, but being avid seafood lovers we were tantalised by the variety and the promise of simple fresh seafood. Rias de Galicia’s pricing point and occasional above average plates has me thinking I’ve fallen for my first tourist trap, in spite of what I’ve read.
And even though it may seem unfair to compare Rias de Galicia, which has such a different dining concept, to the others, my answer is El Quim. 41° was outrageous and stretches your imagination, and yet the morning after, the simplicity of El Quim goes unrivalled. Delicious fresh seafood.
Aside from those divine cockles, Rias de Galicia was probably the least memorable experience of our week, which only goes to show how spectacular the culinary scene is in Barcelona.
Aside from Dos Palilos, another japanese restaurant that came highly recommended by Chef Ferran Adrià was Koy Shunka. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, at the very least Dos Palilos does contemporary Asian tapas (the tapas element being the Spanish link). Besides, just because Chef Adrià is a genius at what he does, doesn’t necessarily translates to him being an expert on restaurants in Barcelona. But I figure if there’s one person I’d take a recommendation from, it would be him.
Were we really going on our second consecutive Japanese dining experience, on our second day in? Seated around the low countertop with a clear view of the kitchen, the preparation appears to be very much part and parcel of our dining experience with the other tables almost elevated to grant them a better viewing platform. Owner and head chef Hideki Matsuhisa was on hand all afternoon, ensuring everything was executed to perfection.
We opted for the Gastronomico degustation over the Koy degustation. We start with a selection of appetisers of sweet fresh anchovies, edamame, beautifully tender baby squid encased in the lightest tempura batter. And the fourth, tapioca crisps with this divine creamy foie gras & miso dip - both flavours vied for our attention.
rio frío caviar with baby corn cream
The last I had a caviar & corn pairing was at Joel Robuchon. This was visually simpler - dashi stock jelly, the sweet baby corn slices, so simple and clean in flavour, gave a little crunch as you moved through the luxuriously rich cool baby corn cream, topped and complemented by Caviar de Riofrío from the Andalucía region in Spain.
koy shunka’s assorted seashells with yuzu flavour
The beautifully fresh jellyfish, scallops, succulent and tender clams, mussels and the oysters which were very lightly creamy - each evoking distinctly sweet flavours of the sea. And out of the creams & the translucent, the one that catches your eye is the bright coral tipped goose barnacle (which looks quite unsightly in clusters), its flesh delightfully plump and juicy. The slippery soft white asparagus disguises itself quietly, as does the dashi soup jelly. Contrasting with the light creamy acidic yuzu.
lobster tataki with lobster stock, rice cookies
The crab lobster crustacean debate. Lobsters have not been kind to me. I have been scarred by too many poorly cooked lobsters, that it is far easier to fall in love with the crab’s sweet simplicity. But when lobsters are cooked to perfection, there is a gratification you can’t get from crabs, when you bite into it, all plump, right on the brink yet slightly translucent, juicy. With crab, it scatters, it has no resistance.
Accompanied by rice cookies, which are remarkably crisp and fragrant, rich lobster stock, soy, nutty sesame and sea salt.
nyumen in dashi soup with grilled iberico pork & sea cucumber
Growing up in Malaysia, to this day, there’s still this comfort and familiarity in being presented with a simple bowl of steaming hot soup & noodles. Nyumen, is essentially somen in hot broth. The silky somen retained a lovely bite, the charcoal grilled iberico pork (where else will you find iberian ham cooked this way and to such perfection) was exquisitely tender and fragrant, the spanish sea cucumber was quietly succulent and buttery soft, in a rich yet clear dashi soup.
steamed red mullet & cockles in dashi
An intricate nori web supported by juicy red mullet, mushrooms and brown rice. One of the plates where everything that preceded it was of such a high standard, that even good wasn’t good enough.
The next course is quite literal - the sashimi is placed on a plate indented in the shape of Japan. Three parts of tuna - minced, sliced & belly, squid, mackarel.
The fresh wasabi is a welcome kick.
sashimi in japan
But the truffle brings the tuna to a whole new level. The fish is simple and fresh, the squid is creamy and almost glides, and the toro is silky and melts. And yet the truffle fragrance is entrancing and it’s remarkable how quickly your palate takes to its presence, and you find yourself never wanting to endure sashimi without truffle ever again. Its purpose isn’t to mask the fish, but it just gives it the other element, and makes the simple sashimi that much more satisfying & indulgent.
palamos red shrimps grilled & tempura // japanese beef wagyu with japanese brown rice
The juicy red prawn, is sweet with a slight hint of translucency. Its head is particularly delicious. The other, encased in a shell of crispy baby prawns, a brilliant take on tempura as it gives you that crunch you crave and doesn’t detract but enhances the flavour. To dip, we have the juices that leak out when they fry the prawn head.
The wagyu suffered the same fate as the red mullet. Clean marbling, hints of red, juicy mushrooms, beansprout & onions in a thick fragrant miso sauce.
The eel positively melts. The tuna and the toro california roll couldn’t compare.
Following a pre-dessert of whipped yoghurt & bitter yuzu peel, we have a heady coffee icecream, perched on top of a sticky coffee crisp, a relatively mild green tea mousse, with a base of dorayaki pancake. Each component is housemade, and is quite striking visually, but the coffee was quite dominant and I wished the green tea would have matched its intensity.
495 Collins Street
After the launch at Lui Bar, we decided to have a bite at Merchant, given it’s just at the Rialto’s doorstep. It’s been a while since I’ve been to Grossi Florentino, but Merchant is quite distinct from it with a casual bistro feel and a true blue Italian menu.
bigoli de bassan, crab, radicchio, chilli ($26)
Bigoli, a venetian pasta, had a beautiful bite with little chunks of sweet fresh crab & slightly bitter dark purple radicchio running through it.
risotto, porcini mushrooms ($20)
Neat whole grains with a fair bite, and little bites of earthy porcini.
polenta, olive oil, parmesan ($7)
Velvety, and fragrant with parmesan and olive oil. The polenta with gorgonzola sounds promising.
A no fuss talian menu, each with short simple descriptions. The pastas we had were in the same fashion, but cooked well.
I’d only gotten as far as the snacks, oysters & one of the tapas from the sea two nights ago. Tonight I round off with the tapas from the sea & the land, and the sweets.
marinated fried fish
Every plate from start to finish has been so simple and yet they’ve exceeded my expectation and so much more. This was probably the one I puzzled over the most. Unassuming little pieces, and they remained so. Piping hot, a very light coat, and the juices from the white fish fill your mouth. I kept waiting for the ball to drop, but it never did. Can’t I just enjoy it for what it is? Not when I’ve had plates like what preceded it, and plates like the next three.
fried egg with truffled duck fat & potato cream
Name alone, no one can go past this. It’s so light it begins its descent upon being set before us. Warm, creamy, yolky, the velvetiest concoction, you have gleaming duck fat with black truffles, the lightest airy potato mousse, with slow hues of the golden yolk as you gently whip this fantastically comforting creation, which defies all logic - so heavy on paper and yet remarkably light.
mollete with double chin
Likened to brioche by our server but brioche couldn’t hold a candle to this mollete. It’s soft and pillowy to touch, it becomes one with the silky fatty double chin pork, with a touch of ginger mustard. That’s the marvellous bit - that the soft glistening sheets of double chin pork become the supporting act as you struggle to distinguish between the two as they caress the inside of your mouth, showcasing the perfection of that humble mollete, emerging as the true star of the dish.
Deceptively simple, and yet redefines the standards. Feather light, melt in your mouth, silky, fresh - Tickets Bar really pushes the boundaries on those words.
tuna belly tartare with a light spicy sauce & lime
The toro is cold beautifully silky and astonishingly fresh, with a gorgeous vibrant kimchi sauce with sesame seeds, juicy tart cherry halves with lemon notes. Lush on the mouth, and yet light and vibrant. It comes with a basket of crunchy bread paper which is almost unnoticeable except for the beautiful crunch and muted graininess.
A few plates in, you think you know what to expect. And out comes this preciously simple dish. There were plenty of dishes we could have doubled up on but we refrained and yet, we had three serves of the toro.
liquid ravioli of payoyo cheese
Similar to their spherical olives, taken as a whole, it slides silkily into your mouth and gently reveals a creamy rich liquid payoyo, a blend of goat’s milk & sheep’s milk, but its flavour is akin to a blue.
Their sweets are beautiful, but I wasn’t as taken by them. Chocolate mousse with raspberry, creamy chocolate ice cream and white chocolate curls. I saw a huge bag of chocolate come in from Pastisseria Escriba and the chocolate did not disappoint.
black sesame & white chocolate lava rock
This one was a bit of a flirt, and won me over. Playful in thought, biting through its cracked surface revealed rich white chocolate and nutty with black sesame, yet the pockets of air within the rock made it quite light, with a passionfruit tang, and a crunchy rich hazelnut praline.
Far too pretty to eat, whimsy red and white dotted mushroom caps of berry meringue blooming from coconut pistachio cake moss.
The coveted ice cream trolley.
mango cone with mango sorbet
Tickets Bar is everything you want it to be. It’s fresh uncomplicated food, and yet it’s full of unexpected whimsy and playfulness. Every bite and component, you know what it is, it’s nothing you haven’t seen before and yet it’s something you haven’t seen before. It never ceases to amaze. It’s one of those places you could go to over and over again and still want more.