Features on StarChefs.com

what to eat & where to go


Sugar and Spice:
Chocolate Whimsies:
Where Tapas Are Tops:
AROLA (At Hotel Arts Barcelona)
Intimate, Stylish Service:
Seafood with a Twist:
The Beautiful People
MOO (At Hotel Omm)
See and Be Seen
Old Spain, New Again


Santa Caterina Market
Restaurant Sant Joan



By Kelly Snowden

Spain has firmly established its place at the forefront of modern gastronomy, creating alta cocina that’s grounded in both the laboratory and the kitchen. Whether you believe the hype or not, new techniques and presentations, such as consommé lentils and edible cocktails, have left diners dazzled both in their palates and in their minds. Although the revolution has been going on all over Spain, the frontlines of this new wave are arguably in Barcelona, where Ferrán Adrià has his laboratory.

Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia, a fiercely independent region of Spain that has its own language, culture and traditions. Catalonians savor living in their casual Mediterranean beach city, and they take their food seriously. The landscape, and most restaurants, are decidedly modern and chic, as evidenced by Barcelona’s Art Nouveau architecture and numerous museums dedicated to modern masters such as Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró.

Not all restaurants listed below prescribe to the ideas behind alta cocina, but each one serves food that is infinitely tasty and tied to the cuisine and traditions of Barcelona, a city straddling the land and sea. One small detail to note when making reservations and dining out in Barcelona: Spain runs on a different timeline than continental Europe and America. Lunch is taken between 2 and 4 in the afternoon, and most restaurants don’t even open for dinner until 9. Once you have reserved a table, though, it is most likely yours for the afternoon or evening, leaving no need to rush. So just relax, and take the time to savor the food. Buen Provecho!


A take on Pan con Tomate y Fuet at Manairo on StarChefs.com

A take on Pan con Tomate
y Fuet at Manairo

Everyone knows that tapas (traditional bar food) form one of the cornerstones of Spanish cuisine, but they also appear as high-concept appetizers in several fine-dining restaurants around town. A restaurant special that you won’t see in Madrid is Pan con Tomate, toasted bread rubbed with garlic and tomato, then drizzled with oil and a pinch of salt. This tangy dish is also sometimes accompanied by Fuet, or sausage. An exemplary representation of this mealtime standard is available at Bar Pinotxo, a favorite tapas bar among local chefs for its classic take on Catalonian cuisine. A high-end version of the dish comes from Ramón Freixa of El Raco d’en Freixa, who reinterprets it using fuet pierced by breadsticks that have been rolled in tomato. Jordi Herrera of Manairo does another restaurant interpretation, with the main elements, bread, tomato, fuet and garlic, blended together and dehydrated for serving in a spoon.

A take on Pan con Tomate y Fuet from El Raco d'en Freixa on StarChefs.com

A take on Pan con Tomate y
Fuet from El Raco d'en Freixa

Patatas Bravas, diced potatoes in a spicy tomato sauce that are often served with aioli, are dished up at almost every corner joint in Barcelona. Sergi Arola’s Arola has its own version, plating the potatoes in uniform can-shaped chunks individually stuffed with tomato and topped with the garlicky mayonnaise. The taste, and even the texture, are true to the original, but the presentation is sophisticated enough for the well-heeled clientele.

Pan con Tomate from Bar Pinotxo on StarChefs.com: Photo by Jordi Martín Arribas

Pan con Tomate from
Bar Pinotxo

Another filling treat for someone on the go is Tortilla de Patatas, a heavy egg and potato omelet served between two slices of bread. Xavier Pellicer of Abac does an elaborate take on this that’s topped with truffles and perhaps is more akin to a

For other bar standards you might see around town in bars and restaurants alike, try Boquerones, white anchovies in vinegar, served at Quimet & Quimet, a popular tapas bar, on top of a piece of toast with sun-dried tomato pate, leeks and an olive. And for a shock of sweet richness, nothing beats Chocolate con Churros. The hot chocolate in Spain is thick as pudding, and the cinnamon churros are the ideal accompaniment.

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Sugar and Spice:

Carrer de la Princesa, 53
08003 Barcelona
phone: 34-93-268-1630

Tea Soup from Espai Sucre on StarChefs.com

Tea Soup from Espai Sucre

Jordi Butrón is a true innovator in a world of imitators. He’s been stretching pastry frontiers since the early 90s. Back then he was combining sweet with savory to make memorable desserts at a time when the French dominated pastry with sweet, meticulously presented dishes. He also began doing dessert tasting menus around the same time, sometimes alternating sweeter courses with ones that had stronger savory notes. He’s been doing both of these things at his restaurant, Espai Sucre, for the past seven years, while also running his own pastry school during the day. The décor of the restaurant is minimalist, with bright orange accents in a large, lofty space with floor-to-ceiling windows facing onto the street. The tasting menus include 3 or 5 courses, and each course has a suggested wine pairing. Make the trip for an after-dinner treat, or have your visit be the evening’s main event.

  • Desserts to Savor:
    Manchego Cheese “Tart” with Pineapple and Thyme
    Truffle, Butter and Hazelnut
    Cold Ceylon Tea Soup with Spices and Fruits
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Chocolate Whimsies:
Plaza Sant Gregori Taumaturg, 2
08021 Barcelona
phone: 34-93-201-1846

Chocolates in the window of Oriol Balaguer's shop on StarChefs.com

Chocolates in the window of
Oriol Balaguer's shop

Tucked into a plaza in a high-end neighborhood of Barcelona is Oriol Balaguer’s store. He, like Butrón, has been combining chocolate with savory spices for ages, yielding one of his best sellers, a box of tasting chocolates with flavors like cardamom, saffron and pop rocks. The shop’s modern design of black and white showcases chocolates, candies and a new concept cake every month. During Easter the studio churns out giant chocolate eggs with cut-outs revealing smaller eggs, golf balls or Japanese characters. Stop in to put together a picnic basket of treats along with a matching wine.

  • Chocolates to Savor:
    Wasabi Chocolates
    Peanut Butter Golf Balls
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Where Tapas Are Tops
AROLA (At Hotel Arts Barcelona)

Carrer de la Marina, 19-21
08005 Barcelona
phone: 34-93-221-1000

Patatas Bravas at Arola on StarChefs.com

Patatas Bravas at Arola

This chic establishment right on the beach is part of the expanding empire of La Broche chef Sergi Arola, and is located in the sexy Hotel Arts. Here the tapa-inspired cold and hot plates are the best bets, where you get to try a bit of everything while sharing with your companions. They make up about two thirds of the menu. The dining room has a futuristic vibe, with a walk-through wine display case dominating the center of the blue-accented room. Chiffon curtains hanging from floor-to-ceiling give a more intimate feel, and placemats have photographs of Chef Arola crafting his masterpieces. Make sure you get a drink from the bar, such as the Guaracha, a slightly sweet raspberry concoction that is as beautiful to look at as it is to drink.

  • Dishes to Savor:
    Carpaccio of Tuna with Tomato, Goat Cheese and Soya “Perrins” Sauce
    Royal Truffle with Cubed Foie Gras
    Iberian Cured Ham
    Poached Razor Clams
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Intimate, Stylish Service

Carrer del Rec, 79-89
08003 Barcelona
phone: 34-93-319-6600

Potato Omelet with Truffla at Abac on StarChefs.com

Potato Omelet with Truffle at Abac

Chef Xavier Pellicer’s Abac is a beautiful restaurant, with pale neutrals from wall-to-wall and a staff that is widely recognized as one of the most helpful in Barcelona. The atmosphere is cozy but sophisticated, and tables are placed far enough apart to allow for intimate conversation between courses. The food is welcoming and enticing as well, with influences both from Chef Pellicer’s French father and Catalonian mother, such as the typical combination of mountain and sea elements. For Pellicer, meals are about more than food. They’re also about timing, where the pace of service has flavors build upon one another over courses.

  • Dishes to Savor:
    Crab Tartar with Avocado, Mushrooms, and Lemon and Basil Sorbet
    Potato Omelet with Truffles
    Brioche with Vanilla and Passion Fruit
    Sturgeon with Shitake, Bok Choy and Emulsion of Cepes
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Seafood with a Twist:

Disputación, 424
08035 Barcelona
phone: 34-93-231-0057

Veal dish prepared on the Fakircook at Manairo on StarChefs.com

Veal prepared on the Fakircook at Manairo

The focus of Manairo is on the interplay of the sea and mountains around Barcelona. Chef Jordi Herrera prepares food that is equally hearty and playful, with robust flavors and sweet brininess. Try a dish prepared on the Fakircook, a bed of nails that is heated over a range flame for swift cooking of meat. Chef Herrera invented it so that he could cook meat through in a short amount of time while keeping as much juice and tenderness as possible.

  • Dishes to Savor:
    Red Mullet with Green Peas, Garlic Oil and Parsley
    “False” Risotto (made from potato) with Squid
    Monkfish with Chickpeas and Butifarra
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The Beautiful People
MOO (At Hotel Omm)
Carrer de Rosselló, 265
08008 Barcelona
phone: 34-93-445-4000

Beet dish from Moo on StarChefs.com

Beet dish from Moo

Joan Roca’s first concept restaurant is located on the first floor of Hotel Omm and has sleek, cool lighting with a decidedly Japanese vibe. Roca’s brother, Josep, has a nose for wine, and many of the dishes, such as the prawn dish sited below, were developed specifically to complement the flavors in the wines they’re paired with. The food is pure Spanish innovation with some of the most breath-taking presentations in Barcelona, served on humorously designed plates with animals, short phrases or photographs. Chef Felip Llufriu runs the kitchen while Chef Roca leads his signature establishment, El Celler de Can Roca, in nearby Girona.

  • Dishes to Savor:
    Beet Root with Truffle, Porcini and Artichoke Hearts
    Prawns with Curry, Roses and Carrots
    Timbale of Apple and Foie Gras with Vanilla Oil
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See and Be Seen
Carrer del Comerç, 24
08003 Barcelona
phone: 34-93-319-2102

A table at Comerç 24 on StarChefs.com

A table at Comerç 24

This restaurant was conceived as a place to experiment with high-end tapas, and Carles Abellan, formerly of El Bulli, serves them with style and humor. Olives come in tin anchovy canisters printed with the restaurant’s insignia, and shrimp sashimi comes with the head on, displayed like a fan. The décor is chic in black and red, and the bar is one of Barcelona’s hottest spots to be seen once the sun has set. Make sure to leave room for the sweet tapas that come at the end, especially the olive oil and chocolate with salt.

Olive oil and chocolate and strawberry cream dessert at Comerç 24 on StarChefs.com

Olive oil and chocolate
dessert at Comerç 24

  • Tapas to Savor:
    Iberian Ham, Mozzarella and Truffle Sandwich
    Sea Bass with Artichokes and Truffles
    Sashimi Tuna with Wasabi, Soy and Citrus Vinaigrette
    Codfish with Artichoke Puree and Black Truffle Oil
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Old Spain, New Again
Carrer Sant Elies, 22
08006 Barcelona
phone: 34-93-209-7559

The bread basket at El Raco d'en Freixa on StarChefs.com

The bread basket at
El Raco d'en Freixa

El Raco D’en Freixa is an establishment rooted in family tradition. Chef Ramón Freixa’s father ran the back of the house before he did, and his grandparents were both local bread-makers. They’ve passed their secrets onto their grandson, as evidenced by the most addictive breadbasket in all of Barcelona. This culinary blood runs through Chef Freixa’s veins as well, and his passion is pumped into each of his elegant, tantalizing dishes. Like many other Catalan cooks, Chef Freixa takes inspiration from combining sea elements with land elements, as in his sea snail and quail egg emulsion. Everything has bold, fresh flavors but is prepared in the most meticulous manner as Ramón Freixa carries his family establishment firmly into the future.

  • Dishes to Savor:
    Ravioli of Pheasant with Pumpkin and Hazelnut Cream
    Foie Gras Ball Covered in Truffle with Muscatel Gelatin and Spicy Bread Cream
    Rockfish with Green Onions, Macadamia Nuts and Garlic Cream
    Prawns with Tubular Vegetables and Risotto
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Mercat de la Boqueria
phone: 34-93-317-1731

A stand at Mercat de la Boqueria on StarChefs.com

A stand at Mercat de la Boqueria

This bar’s location in the heart of Barcelona’s most bustling market guarantees that all the tapas are made with the freshest ingredients available. There’s no gimmick here, just standard tapas and raciones (small plates) done simply but with great attention to detail. During the lunch hour, a constant rotation of diners sidles up to the bar for classic Mediterranean dishes like croquetas and garbanzos with black sausage. It may not be fancy, which is precisely why the joint counts Ferrán Adrià as one of its biggest fans.

  • Tapas to Savor:
    Pan con Tomate
    Anchovies with Cream of Avocado on a Baguette
    Callos (Tripe)
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Carrer de la Poeta Cabanyes 25
phone: 34-93-442-3142

A montadito at Quimet & Quimet on StarChefs.com: Photo by Jordi Martín Arribas

A montadito at Quimet & Quimet

This tavern-style bar packs in customers hungry for its ever-changing menu of tapas, all straight from the imagination of Chef Quimet. He takes whatever is freshest and serves it from behind the bar, often highlighting local ingredients such as white asparagus and tuna. His menu varies from day to day depending upon what he can find, but his specialty is montaditos, small rounds of toasted bread heaped with any combination of ingredients. Make sure you wash it all down with the delicious dark house beer, specially brewed in Belgium for Quimet & Quimet.

  • Tapas to Savor:
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Santa Caterina Market (Avinguda de Francesc Cambò) has a bar in back called La Torna that is perfect for traditional Spanish food. Chef Ramón Freixa heads there for a casual bite to eat.

Shunka (Carrer del Sagristans 5, ph: 34-93-412-4991) is known for Japanese standards like tempura and is favored by chefs from all around the city, including Chef Felip Llufriu, who runs the kitchen at Moo.

Tram-Tram (Major de Sarrià, 121, ph: 34-93-204-8518) offers plates like queso fresco with zucchini and eggplant, which Chef Xavier Pellicer orders when he drops in for dinner.

Restaurant Sant Joan (Pg. Sant Joan, 65, ph: 34-93-265-7180) isn’t a place to go with a specific dish in mind, since the menu changes daily from soup to chicken to fish, but Chef Jordi Herrera orders whatever is on the menu for the day and is never disappointed.

Ken (Benet I Mateu, 53, ph: 34-93-203-2044) is another Japanese joint that focuses on sushi and is a favorite of Chef Xavier Pellicer.

Alkimia (Carrer Indústria, 79, ph: 93-34-207-6115) is a favorite of Jordi Herrera for alta cocina that is a step outside of the mold with a personality all its own.

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   Published: May 2006