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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

This is Barcelona

So I know what flamenco is and I know what pop is but when the box office told me the show at the Palau de la Musica Catalunya was "flamenco pop" I really didn't know what to expect.

Here in a modernista (art nouveau) but positively psychedelic building that is covered in colorful stained glass, glittering mosaic tiles and sculptures of galloping horses, with every possible surface adorned, loud contemporary Spanish music throbbing and lights flashing I can tell you, this is Barcelona. Achingly modern, distinctly Spanish yet unique and most of all, wildly enthusiastic, Spanish diva Rosario, prances across the stage like a Spanish Tina Turner, belting out songs with soul and emotion.

So too the chefs of Barcelona seem filled with soul. Whether it's perfectly executed traditional dishes like the tortilla at Cal Pep or taking traditional dishes and giving them a modern twist like Iberian pork belly with lentils braised with calamares ala plancha at Cinc Sentits, soul and enthusiasm are never lacking.

Barcelona's Roman, French and even American influences (dating back to Christopher Columbus) combine with centuries old culture and local ingredients to express something delicious and often surprising. Not everything succeeds, but you can't help but appreciate the passion and pride all the same.

Highlights? The decadent tassa de xocolata at EscribĂ  thick as pudding but richer and more chocolate-y than any chocolate pudding I've ever eaten, the steamed clams at Cal Pep served in a little broth and a red peppery olive oil, char-broiled artichokes at Mussol, and a melange of peas, fava beans, spring garlic and black sausage at Origen 99.