Friday, January 15, 2010

Jan 14th - Café Barcelona - Vancouver

(Photos were take with the cell phone.)Last minute audible from D. He reminded me that we had thought about seeing a movie at the Vancity theatre called the "Yes Men Fix the World". Vancity is great for indie films, documentary, and foreign films. Vancity is not so great on member management and junk email. I get so many notices for updates that I've stopped reading them. As well, I've had to buy 3 memberships over the last year because of various events and their lack of ability to merge their emailing list with any other system or even paper printout. Grrrr

Anyhoo, I was supposed to make Spinach and Goat Cheese soufflee but the movie was at 815 so we decided to eat downtown after the gym. I also hadn't planned for that so found myself trying to towel off in the shower with my facecloth.
I chose the Barcelona Café because I pass it all the time on my way home. They had a Vespa parked out front when they first opened. It reminded me of the 2 years lived in Barcelona where people park their scooters everywhere there is space.

It's the closest Spanish Tapa and Pinxo joint to authetico that I've been to here in Vancouver and I've tried a few. I lived in Barcelona for two years and travelled all over. I lived in San Sebastien for work for a few months as well and I have a pretty staunch view on authenticty but I'll temper my review. I was telling D that when I was living in Spain, it was really hard to get real Indian or Thai because they had to 'cool' down their spices for the Spanish tongue. Contrary to popular belief, spaniards don't like spice. They think black pepper is spicy. You won't often find a pepper shaker on tables in restaurants. But I we thought, Vancouver is more diverse so they should stay true to their style and there was one dish which I was disappointed that they had to 'westernise'.

Spaniards are extremely proud of their cuisine. It is firmly part of their identity. They believe their food to be the best in the world. Now, you might find that said by other cultures but I've not seen it so universally believed as I had for Spain. The only other would be, perhaps, Italy but they'd still come second to how unanimous they are on this to a point it seems 'closed minded'. I suppose it might come from post Franco/fascist sense of national pride. All good. For me, it took a little bit of adjusting. I was not accustomed to the amount of olive oil used and the lack of rice or other starch on the plate as a default. I like spice. I did miss the spice but as I started to make my own spanish food, I made the appropriate adjustments :-D

I took one look at the menu and I knew right away that this place had potential. Don't get me wrong. I like Bin941, Cobre and Sanafir. I'm not as big a fan of places serving overpriced small portions under the banner of tapas like Uva. The menu is very straight forward, simple and mouthwatering just on a quick read.

The menu was split into sections for Tapas Cold/Hot and Pinxos (pronounced PINCHOS, basque or catalan use of "X"), then salads and desserts. There are tapas or 'raciones' are small plates. They are roughly the size of an appetizer. There are also cold or hot Pinxos which are the equivalent of a large amuse bouche or hors d'oeuve. Then the simple green salads and desserts. The prices were exceptionally reminiscent of Spain, 3-9$ for a Tapa and 3-4$ for a Pinxo.

When I say authentic I mean it reminded me of Barcelona where bars, and tapas bars abound. They're not necessarily posh sit down restaurants. This is like one of those though their decor is slight more upscale. There was a lovely flamenco guitar cd playing. Perfect.

We started with the white anchovies in vinagre, "Boquerones en Vinagre". They're traditionally a type of ceviche with small white anchovies but unlike the typical anchovies these have not been cured in salt so they are not salty. They were yum. We then ordered the classic "Patatas Bravas", potatoes with Aioli and Tomato sauce. Actually, it's not typically tomato sauce. It's normally hot sauce. I was luke warm on their rendition of this dish. The potatoes looked like they had potential but the tomato sauce made them soggy. The tomato sauce was more like tomato puree so there was too much water. As well, the aioli was on the side. Weird. A purist serves, piping hot crispy potatoes covered in aioli with a the 'red slightly spicy sauce' on top. It's one of the rare slightly spicy things in the spanish repetoire. I'm okay with them because you gotta have patatas bravas if you're going to a real Cantina.

Next we had the Octopus, "Pulpo". It wasn't quite the same but it tasted the same. Pulpo is octopus and NOT squid or calamari. When you order this type of pulpo in spain, you get toonie sized coin slices of the tentacles. It is very spongy. I'm actually not a big fan but the use of olive oil and paprika on this dish is yum. This however, I suspect, used purple squid or smaller octopus because they were sections of the tentacles which were, as you can see, very small. So they were chewy instead of spongy. This was a very nice dish.

We of course had Pan con Tomate, bread with tomato. It's a standard as well. This was altered as well and unlike the patatas, where it was a chef's take on the dish, this was just completely untraditional. Though, I have to admit, it tasted like I remember and even slightly fresher. The 'real' pan con tomate is a large broad slice of a round loaf. It is rubbed with garlic then you take ripe tomatoes cut in half and rub its 'guts' into the bread, really rubbed in. The 'meat' of the tomato is tossed. Then you drizzle the bread with nice olive oil. In this case, they did a 'bruscetta' style pan which I think was an attempt to satsify the local vancouverites who lurve their bruscetta. I am so tired of bruscetta. Didn't it go out with quiche yet? BUT BUT like I said it tasted very nice. They used sliced baguettes topped with chopped tomato 'guts' and olive oil. Their oil was really nice.

Those were the standards. On top of those we had some pinxos which are one hors d'oeuvre served on a slice of baguette. In Spain, you'd eat as you want from the counter and keep the toothpicks and you'd be charged for the count. MMMMM Though unnecessary, they still served with a toothpick. I liked it. We had the Txorra, sausage which D really liked and later asked for the source. Ask me. We also tried the Anchovy with goatcheese and piquillo pepper. Then finished with the Blue Cheese Mousse. The last was very 'modern' but very nice.

I will also add that I wish they had more spanish wine on the list. The best one on there was the Thelmo Basa. A nice bright white. Try the Crema Catalana, a slightly nutty creme brulee. They also have sangria specials and entertainment on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

I will go back!

Cost: $$ - $$$
Ambience: Cozy
Staff: Very friendly and warm
Location: Right downtown and close to shows and clubs
Cleanliness: Newly established


Café Barcelona
1049 Granville Street
Vancouver, BC V6Z 1L4
(778) 885-5522

Cafe Barcelona on Urbanspoon

1 Leave a / Read COMMENTs:

Anonymous said...

Umm, you won't go back because they've closed their doors.