Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Barcelona Cuisine | Comerç 24

One of the most memorable meals during our trip to Spain was at Barcelona's eloquent and cosmopolitan Comerç 24. Distinguished by a coveted Michelin Star, Chef/owner Charles Abellan's cuisine is described as having roots but knowing no borders. He began his career under the prestigious Ferran Adria of El Bulli fame, where he trained and spent seven subsequent years on the team before managing successive ventures of Adria's. Eventually returning to downtown Barcelona to open restaurants of his own, Abellan is renowned as one of the most innovative chefs of nouvelle Catalan cuisine.His flagship eatery features inspired luxury tapas created using avant-garde techniques. The interior spaces is sophisticated and refined, with a soothing ambiance of neutral gray tones highlighted by warm red and yellow decor. While I had Comerç 24 on my radar prior to departing for Spain, we didn't have set plans to visit. Most reviews would advise against showing up without a reservation, but early on a weekday night, we decided to take our chances.
We ventured on foot to the hip neighborhood of El Born, past the majestic Arc de Triomf located in the Parc de la Cituadella. We were the among the first to arrive around 8:30 pm and were seated at the bar, adjacent to the brightly lit open kitchen; its yellow walls glowing from the inside out. The vacant seats on either side were soon filled by couples on vacation who clearly had the same idea as us, right down to their DSLRs photographing the the meal. Conversation among us ensued, wouldn't you know I felt right at home.
Besides the company adding to the convivial experience, the entire staff was superb throughout. Professional and composed service was met with warm hospitality, they simply did not miss a beat. After settling in with an aperitif, a glass of Cava for her, "White Label" on the rocks for him, a server presented three artisianal loaves of bread arranged on a large cutting board, and kindly instructed us to choose one.
Sliced behind the scenes and served accompanied by a wooden crate of four distinct and delicious Spanish olive oils, this well executed gesture began the meal on an impressive note.
We decided to order our tapas a la carte, as opposed to the set 7 course tasting menu, which was 84€. Our meal more than likely ended up the same price in the end, however, there were certain items that spoke to us, and we ordered with our instincts. The kitchen took care to split certain dishes into individual portions as they saw fit.
The meal commenced with a trio of amuse bouche style tapas. We sipped a Cold Cauliflower Soup with smoked tea and nori, followed up with two bites each of Pickled Cauliflower Florets with ginger and rice vinegarNext we savored the Phyllo Cigars which were filled with Parmesan mousse and accented with essence of lemon and basil. The presentation of the starter tapas on natural stones was utterly charming, as were the slate slabs on the courses that followed. The Pizza 24 was yet another prelude, juicy tomatoes and sweet strawberries met over creamy buratta on a thin crispy flatbread topped with heaps of fresh basil.
Our a la carte adventure began with the Tuna Sashimi Pizza. Thick cubes of the deep ruby red fish in a wasabi vinaigrette are layered domino style over a crispy wafer thin crust lined with strips of seaweed. An innovative presentation lends itself to well composed bites, while the preparation allows these flawless pieces of tuna shine, as sashimi this gorgeous absolutely should. A Japanese influence was prevalent in quite a few of the plates we ordered, this fusion proved a welcome concept.I was really looking forward to the Razor Clam Yakisoba, and this radiant bowl of "noodles" did not disappoint. Toothsome strands of the mollusks typically favored in Spanish cuisine are lightly dressed in an Asian inspired sauce; accompanied by intensely bright and juicy mandarin oranges.
The soft citrus fruit has been prepared a la plancha, so the wedges became slightly caramelized. A black firecracker of julienned nori strips give this delectable tapas an element of flair.
Another impeccable sashimi style offering, the Monkfish has been carefully sliced to a pristine thinness, the translucent white flesh is in gorgeous contrast with the black garlic ink and festive confetti of black sesame. I grew infinitely intrigued by the black garlic with each bite. It adds a wonderful umami flavored complexity, and is especially unique in this sticky paste form. Initially mild, the flavors build to a rich savory finish, flattering the subtle sweetness of the Monkfish. This dish was truly something brilliant.

The Braised Oxtail is in stark contrast to the former dishes, this tender cut of meat is warm, juicy and comforting. The heightened meaty flavor, rich and mouth filling was complimented with a clever preparation of remarkably soft and light turnips. A paper thin radish square a top the beef adds a slight hint of tanginess.
With our meal we enjoyed a bottle of Juan Bautista Campo de Borja Yonna, a tempranillo grenacha blend from the region of Aragon. This was a rustic Spanish wine boasting tart cherry on the nose, with pronounced oak flavors and a soft finish.
When it came to dessert, we opted this time for the tasting menu (18€)! A gastronomic parade of magical sweet treats began with a Lemon Ice Tea.
Tart lemon ice cream is scooped over a buttery sable cookie bathing with pineapple chunks in sweet pineapple juices.
The Cherry Tonka presented a smooth scoop of cherry ice cream and a hollowed cherry halve with a golden gelee cube that I can't quite place, and a tonka bean custard. Tonka is reminiscent of vanilla, with a slightly more exotic allure. (Apparently quite the controversial legume, its use in food is banned in the United States by the FDA. Google it!)
In a charming glass jar came Recuit Napolita with strawberry, basil and a foamy custard that was sweet and creamy in one bite, tangy and reminiscent of greek yogurt in the next. While strawberry and basil are a not an unusual ingredient pairing, this jar of whimsy managed to offer surprises with every bite.
The Caramel Apple Saffron was decidedly fascinating. Over a bed of equally soft yet crispy caramel chocolate crumbles sat an inventive apple saffron ice cream, drizzled in a luscious caramel sauce. This was my favorite of the dessert tapas so far, until the grand finale Conguitos ç24 swept in and stole my affections. Over a hazelnut brownie draped with more caramel sat these mystical chocolate bombshells dusted generously in cocoa powder. What would appear to be a dense truffle was in fact a thin shell containing ice cream. It was a nutty praline cream that was all too astonishingly cold and firm. This bite, was bliss. And just when we thought it was over, a slate of Petit Fours showed up. These playful gems from left to right are: gold fondant chocolate bars, green tea white chocolate slivers, chocolate covered pine nuts and vanilla panna cotta oreos.A splurge worthy destination, should you choose to dine at Comerç 24, a procession of creative, luxurious, globally inspired tapas awaits!

11 comments:

  1. that sashimi looks absolutely beautiful. as does the ox tail. oh, and pretty much everything else you ate.

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  2. That meal looks simply amazing! I love the pieces served on the little rocks. That tuna looked incredible - so fresh!

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  3. Love all the presentations - and the various olive oils available is quite the treat. Looks like a great dinner!

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  4. wow, so gorgeous, i'm glad you were able to dine there! yum.

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  5. wow descriptions are phenomenal!!! They never cease to amaze me. What won oxtail or sushi

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  6. I love the presentation of everything!

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  7. That food looks absolutely amazing. Almost too good to eat! Almost.

    http://www.glamkittenslitterbox.com/
    Twitter: @GlamKitten88

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  8. oh my goodness! i would love to eat like that! those little phylo cigars and all those wonderful desserts!!! i have to admit to being utterly jealous of this meal!

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  9. The presentation is amazing! And I love the pic o you and Adam. Looks like such a fun time!

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