After a half day of walking and eating Barcelona, the rooftop bar at Hotel 1898 was feeling quite comfortable in the mid-afternoon sun. There were times when watching the seagulls and staring off to the sea and mountains while sipping vermouth seemed like the best possible use of our time. Even Las Ramblas appeared pleasant and quiet from this perch, with the line of tree tops being the only hint of the mass of tourists below.
Venturing too far afield for dinner wasn't in the cards on this night. Luckily we found a little place called Los Toreros during some googling. Even more luckily was the restaurant is located directly behind Hotel 1898, in a little alley, tucked away, and seemed to be relatively tourist-free.
Los Toreros, which I believe means bullfighter, is a cheery, brightly yet warmly lit, energetic little place. The menu is extensive, with plenty of tapas. It felt, to us, very authentically "Spanish," with a little whimsy thrown in, what with all of the pictures of bullfighters on the walls. The most old-school place that we visited to that point. (It will be noted that the t:e organization does not support bullfighting or the killing, torturing, or taunting of anything for sport. Well, OK, I do enjoy taunting people who have that fabulous combination of ignorance and arrogance and insist on proving it at every turn.)
We did not screw around and got right to the food. Which is what I'll do right now. But first, sangria.
The menu included "tiny clams," or something to that effect. The missus likes small shellfish, and that was the first item we tried to order. It turned out they were out of the tiny clams, but had some other clams, which we were assured were not large. They sure weren't. These were tiny clams. I can't imagine how small the proper tiny clams would have been.
I'm not a huge fan of clams, but these little suckers were sweet and tender and in a broth that was herbaceous and subtle and complex. It was probably a very simple sauce, but certainly the sum was more than the parts. I'm guessing olive oil, parsley, and a very light tomato broth. Just wonderful.
Seeing an opportunity here, probably for the first time during the trip, to order items that you might find on menus at "Spanish/Iberian/Portuguese" restaurants in the states, I went with chorizo. My goal, of course, was to compare and contrast these dishes in Spain and their sad, crap counterparts in the states. There's really no need to point out that the food we get at places like El Cid (Paramus, NJ) and Segovia (Little Ferry, NJ), is absolute unexceptional shit (and expensive unexceptional shit for that matter), bearing little to any resemblance to the foods which inspired them.
Garlicy, slightly spicy chorizo in olive oil. Like little pudgy porky fingers.
Shrimp in garlic is another one we see a lot of in the states. Well here ya go. Prawns in garlic and olive oil and parsley. Very traditional, very freakin' excellent. I've said it before but it I'll repeat it: they don't cook their shrimp and prawns to death in Spain. I ate the shells. I'm still not convinced this isn't how it's supposed to be done, and frankly I don't care. The shells are good.
In the interest of eating some sort of vegetable, and that's not to say that a diet of olive oil and fish is a bad thing, we ordered padron peppers. These peppers rae flash-fried until the skins are puckered, and served maybe with a bit of course salt. They are decidedly "summer peppers." Summer hot, summer not hot. These should be on more menus here at home.
There was no way I wasn't going to break my streak of eating seppia at pretty much every meal, so we threw in an order of one of my favorite cephalopods. Until that point, I had seen seppia cut into ribbons like pasta and cut up into smallish slices. I was not prepared for the entire beast to be served on a plate. This is not a complaint. It was simply a lot of cuttlefish! I ate until I could eat no more, and I'd finish the rest right now if it were in front of me.
For a place right off of Las Ramblas, I got the sense that it's more of a locals' spot. Friendly staff, cool atmosphere, great food, no tablecloths, no jockeying for a spot at a tapas bar. Just sit down, order, and dive in. This was one of our favorite meals in Barcelona.
Los Toreros : Calle de Xuclà, 5 08001 : Barcelona, Spain