April 27, 2009

Hisop, and my favorite server

I promised a friend I would get back to some of the unfinished posts about Spain. Originally, I was going to tackle the Etxebarri post... but that one is going to need some more time. Instead, today's post is about Hisop, a fantastic restaurant located in the upper Diagonal, part of the growing collection of uber-chic, modern Barcelona food scene. Two chefs partnering to follow a dream... a very cool story, a very good restaurant.

We came to Hisop in hopes of finding a balanced combination of modern gastronomic techniques with classical Catalan flavors. Hisop achieved that balance with grace and sophistication, expressed with a firm viewpoint toward pushing the traditional forward into the future.

This was also the meal where we encountered my favorite server of the vacation... skillful, knowledgeable and proficient, looking like Sinead O'Connor's butt-kicking culinary cousin. Something about her said that she didn't take BS from anyone, but even with her take-no-prisoners aura, she was simultaneously hospitable and welcoming. A contradicting combination of characteristics that all worked perfectly for this venue and this meal.

We started with two amuse bouches. The first, an interpretation of a traditional Catalan soup of codfish, olive, potato, onion and white bean--richly flavored, but pure and focused--nicely accented by caramelized and pickled onion. The second, lightly seared tuna with basil concentration, balsamic vinegar gelee cubes and roasted peanut. The peanut flavor was much lighter and nuanced than I expected, and the balsamic gelee tied each of the component flavors and textures together very successfully (buttery soft tuna, nutty peanut).

Our first courses were comprised of two insanely decadent dishes. First, a salad of seared foie gras medallions... are you kidding me??? Sweet, salty, rich, unctuous... the genious of this dish was in the allspice and nutmeg-spiked croutons and the lightly candied orange rind. There was nothing subtle about this dish; just a blow-out bistro salad with an air of luxury. The second dish, lentils with blood sausage and grilled squid. An amazingly caramelized exterior to the squid--tender but crispy, fresh, pristine, almost sweet... accompanied by an earthy mushroom foam. All so rich and so very good.

Corvina with a sauce of rendered tete de veau and leg roast. Perfectly--and I mean PERFECTLY--cooked... lovely crispy skin, intensely moist flesh, and following a prevalent theme of the meal, insanely rich (magnificent body from the beef collagen) without heaviness, focused and precise flavor of the juices of the fish mingled with the beef essence.

Roast chicken with dried apricots, plums and cinnamon foam. De-boned and pressed while grilled, garnished with huge crystals of fleur de sel. A bit springy in texture, but otherwise cooked quite well. Almost Persian in flavor combinations...

Before dessert, a refreshing apertif of peppermint. For me, an array of cheeses (cow, goat, manchengo, bleu, and fermented cow's milk cheese with olive oil--surprisingly acidic), served with a quince compote. For Lav, a rice pudding with pineapple ice cream and a citrus almond cookie. A well-executed combination of flavors.

At 25 Euros, this lunch was an absolute steal for the quality of the ingredients, the amount of food, and the sophistication of both the setting and the service.

Before leaving, we asked our server for tips on other restaurants to visit in Barcelona. Without equivocation, she recommended Saüc, which in her words was making her favorite food in the city. Oh, if we only had more time (and meals) in Barcelona...

Passatge Marimón 9, Barcelona

1 comment:

  1. Saüc is not doing such a good work... Hisop is fresh and creative. The other restaurant in Barcelona with such a relation of quality and price is surely Alkimia (a bit more expensive).