Thursday, January 22, 2009

chain dining in Spain!: superb MESON CINCO JOTAS is a treat for tapas

My first day in Barcelona started early with a 7am flight arrival (2 hours early--wow, amazing American Airlines!) and heading out to "walk" the city by 930am after arriving at my hotel, the elegant CLARIS. After much adventuring and architectural touring, I found myself at MESON CINCO JOTAS' original location (, which is now one of three in Barcelona and about 14 in all Spain. It is an excellent traditional tapas restaurant specializing in dishes with jamon Iberico, the local delicacy. On arrival you can see over 50 huge hams hanging in the front window and at least three different kinds are on racks at the counter being delicately and thinly sliced (think of our delis at home slicing Nova Scotia) by the "cortador" or cutter, a profession in itself. I warmed up (well it's about 50 degrees here) with a glass or two of SENORIO del CID CRIANZA 2003, a hearty Rioja that goes with everything.

I ordered the tapas tasting menu at 23 Euros (about $30 today) which included many wonderful dishes and some less exciting ones as well. To start there was a platter of Catalan Bread done bruschetta style with about 8 or so different slices of meats including the Jamon, Chorizo, Salchichoni and Morcilla (don't ask me which was which). It also included TORTA de CASAR a local cheese that has been slightly warmed to ooziness that you can spread on the small crostini crackers. There is also a plate of olives, bread and oil (this comes with all meals).

The down dish of the day was the COOKED TUNA SALAD over RED PEPPERS with a small salad of greens, some crunchy bacon-like ham and pesto oil. While tasty, it was unexciting and there were less than two bites of tuna. The hit cold appetizer was the CREAM of TOMATO SOUP (called SALMOREJO) which tasted more of yogurt than cream and was topped with egg and more jamon, YAY!

The hot courses were all top notch from the simple two small creamy CROQUETTES oddly served with some potato stix (yes like the packaged ones at home, but obviously made fresh here). The highlight of the meal was the BACALAO with SALSA VERDE a superb 5-bite piece of tender cod with a Provencal-like sauce of olives and tomato along with small shrimps on toast.

The last hot plate was two skewers each through a 1" square or so piece of meat (making about 3 bites each); the first a PORK SIRLOIN with a sweet brown sauce of PEDRO XIMENEZ Sherry with RAISINS and a filet of BEEF with a TORTA CHEESE, god-awful rich and thick cheesy creamy sauce, that was just too much (so I used the Sherry sauce for both meats).

A small dessert of a tiny FUDGE COOKIE with a scoop of CHOCOLATE MOUSSE came in an orange sauce with a tasty broiled ORANGE SLICE. Since dinner here is way after 9pm (you can't even sit down in a restaurant until 9pm), I hope I will be hungry again in several hours!