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My Barcelona Bites: A Memorable Meal at Tickets

November 6, 2012

Five days of late October in Barcelona brought some amazing and breath-taking architecture and sights.  Of course, we also spent some time discovering the culinary scene in this Catalan city.  Of all the meals of croques, papas bravas, and pan tomate, our very first dinner in Barcelona at Tickets was one we compared all meals to, a barometer for the rest of our trip.

Tickets is one of the newest tapas bar from the famous Ferran Adria and his brother Albert Adria.  Located in the L’Eixample neighborhood, the restaurant is only accessible by reservations made 60 days before, one I eagerly made before we even finalized the travel plans for the trip.  Like many others, I knew of Ferran’s prior establishment and how he had created pure magic and illusions in the kitchen with food but I did not know what to expect from Tickets.  All I knew was this was one hard ticket to book and we will be treated to modern takes on traditional tapas and well known dishes from Ferran’s El Bulli.

LZ, MP and I arrived early for our 8PM booking.  It was early but after flying overnight with little sleep and an afternoon of exploring Montjuic, we were ready to rest our tired feet and feed our hungry stomachs.  Even though we were much too early for our reservation, the hostess was nice enough to let us start our feast early.

The inside of the restaurant was bright with white walls and colorful mismatched furniture, creating a dizzying visual.  The broken tiled floor and metal chairs made it feel like we were dining outside on a balcony.  The menu itself was equally whimsical as was our table setting, a knife and an over-sized tweezers.  We were baffled, intrigued as to when we will be wielding these utensils during the course of the meal.

The meal started with the Charity Tickets’ Olives, a dish that Ferran Adria is famous for.  These are his version of a dish of typical olives found at many other restaurants.  The green colored spheres slid easily into our mouth, smooth and soft.  A slight pressure of the tongue caused them to burst easily, releasing a cool liquid that filled the mouth with a full olive flavor.  It was at the same time mild yet intense.

Just as we were still savoring and marveling over the flavors of the olives, the waitress came around with a mason jar of the olives and refilled our spoons.  One more?  Yes, please!

The mini airbags stuffed with manchego cheese was so much more complex than they sounded.  These little bites arrived on an escargot tray filled with coarse salt.

“One bite.  One bite.”

Our waitress eagerly advised us, using hand gestures to supplement her broken English.  We listened and popped them into our mouth whole.  The crunchy thin shell gave away to a creamy cheese filling and ended with a nutty finish from the dusting of hazelnut on top.  These little gems were definitely addicting, a fancy Spanish version of cheese crackers if you will.

We split two toasted cheese bread, unsure what to expect.  The brioche dough had been stuffed with mozzarella and provolone and laced with truffles.  You really can’t go wrong with cheesy bread and truffles.

The ubiquitous tomato bread on so many menus across the city made an appearance in our meal.  Bright and ripe tomatoes were pressed across the surface of the bread, leaving flavor behind.  Finished with a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle of salt, even bread in Spain was exciting!

The avocado cannelloni with crab and romesco sauce was beautiful to look at.  Thin creamy slices of avocado made up the shell and was filled with a delicate crab filling mixed with romesco sauce.  The flavors were surprisingly light and muted, leaving me waiting for a surprise.

Razor clams are another commonly found dish in Barcelona but of course, Tickets took it to another level.  The clams are topped with bright yellow jewel like saffron pearls, thin pieces of soy sauce shards and tart pickled onions.  The colors were so beautiful that I almost didn’t want to disturb the picture.  Almost does not equal absolutely.  The knife cut so easily into the tender clams and the flavors were bright and sharp yet restrained, allowing the pure clean flavors of the clam to shine through.

Remember those tweezers?  Well, they finally came in handy for the next dish, sepia with ink vinaigrette.  A row of adorable roasted baby squid had been dressed in a dark smokey vinaigrette and topped with fish roe.  Even though the packages were small but the flavors were intense and bold, full of the deep sea and smoke at the same time.  I worked the tweezers furiously, popping these little morsels in my mouth.

The next two plates, an Asturian “torto” with chicken stew,  and fricasse of seasonal mushroom, were not quite as memorable as their predecessors.  Perhaps at another restaurant, the little crispy pocket filled with Mexican flavored chicken stew or the bowl of meaty mushrooms would have been a good bite but not here at Tickets.  

Our last dish for the main part of the meal were confit potatoes in pork jus with Iberian ham.  As simple as this sounded, this dish elevated the level once again.  The potatoes, hidden by thin sheets of ham, were tender and cream, flavored lightly by the olive oil and the woodsy paprika.  I loved my two tiny bites and could have easily eaten the whole plate by myself.

A little cheese course before we move onto the sweets.  For this, we return to the spheres.  This time, a liquid ravioli with payoyo cheese, a sheep’s milk cheese.  A little crouton adhered to the top of the spheres with a lemon jam.  This time, the flavors of the sphere weren’t quite so restrained.  We were a little stunned by the intense flavors that burst in our mouth.  Be warned, this is not a dish for those who do not like goat cheese, the predominant flavor here.

For dessert, Tickets offered a few traditional larger plates as well as a list of single serving bites.  These sounded much more appealing to us.  Two little “eggs” nestled in a wood crate for LZ and MP.

Don’t worry – these are not really eggs.  Instead, the hollowed egg shell had been filled with ginger bread crumbs, lemon jello, coconut foam and a mango “yolk”.  Digging deep with a spoon made a bite that had a little of all the components.  The little bite I stole was tropical and airy, a perfect dessert to end the meal.

And what did I get for myself to end the meal?  An adorable cone with strawberry cheese ice cream with honey.  I waited patiently for my cone to arrive but instead was greeted with a ringing bell.  From the far corner of the restaurant came a little ice cream cart, slowly maneuvering its way towards me.  The waitress carefully stopped the cart in front me of and assembled my tiny one biter.  Now this was service!

Our check came in a little tin box for paella, after following up with our waitress a few times.  The Spaniards really want their guests to linger and enjoy even long after finishing the meal!

Even though we probably had 11-12 dishes, the total came in surprisingly affordable for such an unique meal.  We were absolutely beyond pleased with our meal here.  Even though some of the ingredients were not familiar, the flavors were surprisingly disciplined in many dishes.  This made many of dishes accessible and so easy to love and embrace.  Not only that, the food was beautiful to look at with bright colors and unusual shapes.  A fantastic meal to kick off the culinary adventures at Barcelona.

Tickets | Avinguda del Paral·lel, 164  08015 Barcelona, Spain | http://www.ticketsbar.es/web/

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