Stitch and Bear

A long-running Irish blog with reviews of the best restaurants in Dublin and throughout Ireland. Some wine and cocktails thrown in for good measure!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Comerç, 24, Barcelona

Way back in February, I managed to put a week's holiday into my work calendar. This is actually a rare event for me, and it's gotten to the point where I have over two years worth of holidays available to me at the moment. It's just a matter of finding the time to enjoy them (easier said than done!).

With 4 nights booked in Barcelona, I was I was determined to do nothing but eat and drink too much cava. And I think we managed to do that quite successfully, including a blow-out meal at Michelin-starred restaurant Comerç, 24. Located in the El Born district, chef Carles Abellan produces menus based on miniature cuisine with touches of molecular gastronomy and a focus on local produce. In other words, a more refined form of tapas, which is not surprising given that Abellan previously worked under world famous chef Ferran Adrià.

We thought that we had partially adjusted for the late dining habits of Spaniards by booking dinner for 8.30 pm. However, this turned out to be the evening opening time and we were probably the second table seated for evening service.  The interior is dimly lit with a slightly industrial feel that is alleviated by yellow accents. Later I found out that the building was originally used for salting and the selling of pickled and preserved goods. It feels like an appropriate use of the location.

With glasses of cava in hand, we were left to the task of choosing between the two tasting menus - a 7 course Festival menu and a 12 course Grand Festival menu. Both options require putting yourself in the hands of the chef, with exceptions made only for dietary requirements. We opted for 12 courses and made ourselves comfortable.

Baskets of fragrant, large loaves of bread were bought to the table for our selection. Thick crusty slices were returned along with a selection of 4 Spanish olive oils and some salt for dipping. The oils ranged from light and green to rich and spicy, providing a wonderful showcase for Spanish oils. Time flew by, and before too long the first courses arrived at the table. 
  • Cauliflower soup with smoked tea and nori, served cold
  • Cauliflower with ginger and rice vinegar, 4 little florets served atop a stone
  • Cold monkfish with black sesame and black garlic
This first grouping was quickly followed by
  • Filo, parma, lemon and basil, where the flavours formed a gradient from one end to the other.  Utterly delicious, with the intense parmesan flavour reminding me of parmesan ravioli at Chapter One
  • Pizza 24, sliced at the table, mixing together the unusual flavours of anchovy and strawberry
Cauliflower with ginger and rice vinegar
Monkfish with black garlic and black sesame
Pizza 24 with rocket, anchovies and strawberries
Filo tubes filled with parmesan, basil and lemon
Once all the early courses were cleared away, the fish and meat courses started to arrive. For the most part, these were served individually. The shrimp ceviche and oyster dishes were served together, as was the pizza sashimi, tuna tartar and razor clam yakisoba. Overall, there was a bias towards seafood, understandable in a town like Barcelona.
  • Beach shrimp ceviche with wine peach, icy cool granita texture against juicy prawn
  • Oyster with nasturtium leaf and flower, served atop dry ice The oyster and flower were to be rolled in the leaf and eaten in one go
  • Cockles dashi, with delicate sea urchin, a taste and texture akin to foie gras
  • Galicean barnacle, distinctly shaped barnacles served in an agar (?). This was my least favourite dish of the night, mainly due to the lack of flavour when compared with other dishes
  • Peas with squid, a light delicate pea broth with grilled squid and spherified samphire that popped in the mouth
  • Razor clams yakisoba, rich and tasty
  • Pizza sashimi
  • Tuna tartar, served in a pool of rich, unctuous egg yolk
  • Cod with chard, chickpeas and miso
  • Forest rabbit rice with "espardenyes", a rind of rich, meaty risotto
  • Palamos prawn, salt-baked whole prawn. We received advice from the water to suck on the head to get all the tasty juices
  • Beef sirloin with turnips, served perfectly pink
Beach shrimp ceviche with wine peach
Oyster on dry ice with nasturtium leaf and flower
Dashi with cockles and sea urchin

Peas with squid
Razor clams yakisoba
Pizza sashimi
Tuna tartar
Cod with chard and chickpeas
Palamos prawn
Beef with turnips
Following a break, our dessert plates started to arrive at the table, presenting us with array of dishes across the table. However, we stuck to the order in which they arrived. Food and wine pairings are available, and we decided to enjoy some dessert wines along with our sweets. Two glasses were poured, Itsamendi Uretzi 2008 (€4) and a 2008 Olivares (€5). Both were stunning, but the rich red Olivares took the poll position. (We even purchased a bottle the very next day at the famous food shop Colmado Quilez on Rambla Catalunya.)
  • Mel i Mato, a Catalan cheese and honey dessert
  • Lemon ice tea
  • Requit Napolita
  • Nougat with twin cigar. Rich and chocolately, these started to melt once we picked them up, so we quickly ate them in one go
  • Apple and saffron, a great pairing
  • Conguito C,24, chocolate shells pairing with olive oil and salt
Mel i Mato
Lemon ice tea
Apple and saffron
Nougat with twin cigar
Conguito C,24
We declined the offer of coffee, due to the late hour (well after 11pm at this stage), but a plate of delicious  petit fours were none the less were delivered to the table. 
  • Oreo vanilla with black sesame
  • Wild pine nuts with chocolate, dusted in rich dark cocoa
  • Lingote gold, literally covered in gold paint
  • Matcha tablet, white chocolate tablets, flavoured and coloured with green tea
Petit fours at Comerç, 24
Earlier, we had chosen a 2010 Quinta Apolonia Spanish albarino (€26) from the wine list. The sommelier had been most informative when helping us make the selection, clearly outlining the difference between several options. He received bonus marks for pointing out a third cheaper option which came from the same cellar as one of the more expensive options.  Our earlier cava was a 2007 Segura Viudas Brut (€6 per glass), a superb crisp and light cava. We actually ended up drinking several bottles of this cava over the course of our trip.

The Grand Festival menu cost €106 per head, and our total bill for the night came to approximately €300. However, this was probably the most adventurous meal I've enjoyed to date in a Michelin starred restaurant and the wine recommendations were spot on. Service was polite and polished while the dim lighting meant that we felt alone or private throughout the meal.

The manner in which Comerç, 24 mixes traditional Catalan and Spanish cooking with fashionable molecular gastronomy leads to a set of playful and creative dishes. For me, there were some dud notes, but the overall meal was truly memorable. The pace and delivery of the dishes was perfect and the whole night flew by in what felt like a matter of minutes. The strong emphasis on light, tasty seafood was magnificent, while the creative desserts and petit fours finished the meal with aplomb. Very memorable.

Comerç, 24, Carrer Comerç 24, 08003 Barcelona
Tel: +34 93 319 21 02
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4 comments

The Purple Page - Kat Laing said...

Wow that's something else looks amazing. Wish I had know about that when I was in Barcelona a few years ago!!

Stef said...

Lovely post. We ate here a few years ago when we were in Barcelona on our honeymoon, we only had the seven course menu though. The food looks like it's gone up a level since we were there.

Amee said...

Amazing - can I be you when I grow up?

Adrienne said...

Comerc 24 was on my list for our last trip to Barcelona but we ended up picking Alkimia instead. Which turned out to be fabulous but now I'm a little disappointed I didn't get to squeeze in a meal at Comerc 24 too. Woe be me.

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