Barcelona By Tastes

Tickets - Razor Clams with Saffron Pearls

Tickets – Razor Clams with Saffron Pearls

In 1996, French chef Joël Robuchon – considered the best chef in the world at the time – retired (temporarily) and handed the baton, or rather the spatula, to Ferran Adria – the owner and chef of elBulli, located two hours north of Barcelona in the small coastal town of Roses. It rocked the gastronomic world that a Frenchman – always the epitome of culinary excellence – was handing over the reins to a Spaniard – a Catalan even. The following year elBulli received its third Michelin star, and in 2003 Ferran Adria graced the cover of the New York Times Magazine with the headline “The Nueva Nouvelle Cuisine: How Spain Became the New France,” accompanied by a fourteen-page article. Since then, the culinary world has not been the same.

It’s no wonder then, that as Craig and I were planning our trip to Barcelona, food was going to be high on the agenda. With just four nights to plan for I spent months doing research, reading reviews and articles, and pouring over websites. There were so many options, and even more opinions. It was overwhelming. Even if we could have gotten a reservation elBulli was not a consideration because the gastronomic world was shocked once again in 2010 when Adria announced he would close his restaurant the following year. At the height of its success, and after being named the best restaurant in the world an unprecedented five years in a row, elBulli was to be shuttered.

41 Degrees - Oyster with "Ajo Blanco," Grape and Caviar

41 Degrees – Oyster with “Ajo Blanco,” Grape and Caviar

I was, however, able to start with his latest culinary projects.

Today Ferran, with his younger brother Albert, own Tickets and 41 Degrees; and this time it’s Albert who is at the creative helm. The two restaurants have completely different concepts, so it seemed worthwhile to experience both. To balance the Adria brothers’ precious jewel-like bites and sips, I chose another restaurant, Hisop, which is part of the bistronomic trend defined by small restaurants opened by young, well-trained chefs cooking regional food with an experimental edge. Hisop earned its first Michelin star in 2010, and it would be our first Michelin star experience.

But for our first night, the requirements were a little different. Low-key, walking distance from our hotel, with food that wasn’t overly challenging but still creative and delicious, and with a reputation for good, friendly service. Our choice: La Pepita.

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