Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Tasty Tuesday: Bar Central (La Boquería)

Bar Central at La Boqueria, Barcelona
A few weeks ago I alluded to a food-induced out-of-body experience that I had in La Boquería.  You know that feeling, when you
eat something mind-blowingly delicious for the first time and it sets your brain awhirl because you have trouble processing just how tasty it is?  And then you can't think or react to what's happening around you, and you don't even have enough of your faculties to be able to piece together a sentence? That's what happened to me.

You see, Superwoman brought over a TVB travel show featuring Barcelona & Madrid when she went to visit me in Spain.  We watched the Barcelona bits for inspiration for our weekend trip there, and the host of the show raved about the seafood platters at La Boquería. 

Since Barcelona is right on the water, there is a lot of very good and very fresh seafood.  However, the market is a popular tourist haunt, so it's not cheap at all.  But remember the trick I mentioned in my last post about La Boquería: the further in you walk, the lower the prices are.  Most people are so excited about being in there that they'll head straight over to one of the stalls in the corner to eat.  Luckily, we had the presence of mind to do a once-over of the entire market and we found that the stall with the most economical offerings was right at the very back, in the center row, called Bar Central.
Bar Central at La Boqueria, Barcelona

When I was there last Christmas, the plainest, most basic platters started at 16 €, and the better options usually hovered around 18-20 €.  They're not very filling, either, so you'd probably have to go grab some cheap pinchos or tapas afterwards.  But it's absolutely worth trying!

Our first visit to the market (it was so good we went back, even though we were only there for a weekend), we decided to get the assorted platter to get a taste of everything.  I think it was about 23 €. It consisted of two fish halves, two jumbo shrimps, and three razor clams.  The fish was good - but small and not very meaty.  The shrimps were large and generally tasty but juuust a tad undercooked (probably to prevent the meat from being tough).  Then I tasted the razor clams - and that's when it happened.

Assorted seafood platter at Bar Central in Barcelona
I popped a razor clam into my mouth and nearly doubled over in happiness.  Superwoman watched my eyes rolls back in my head as my whole back went boneless.  "How is it?  What's the matter?  How does it taste???" she kept asking.

All I could say to her - and this is embarrassing, because I'm a writer - was "Oh my God", breathlessly, over and over.  It was so fresh and sweet in the way that seafood is!  It was grilled with a bit of garlic, sea salt, and drizzled with olive oil.  The garlic was super fragrant, cooked just right, and enhanced the flavour of the clams perfectly.  The olive oil, while not top grade, was a very decent quality.  I can only compare the shock to my senses with the first time I tried lobster - and abalone.  I could barely string two words together, it was so good.

So Superwoman promptly ate one too and it was like looking in a mirror, because I look just like her, except she's a little rounder and there's a bit more of her in every direction. :P

Those razor clams were absolutely stunning, so we decided right away to go back the next day.  On Day Two at the market we shared a platter of little squids (chipirones):
Squid platter (chipirones) at Bar Central
Also very delicious, with little grains of golden, grilled salt on it, and they were drizzled with this really yummy pesto-like sauce.  The squids were grilled to perfection - not undercooked, and not overcooked to a rubbery texture.  It was just right.  If I remember correctly, this platter cost about 18 €.  There was also a nice little cluster of house-fried chips in the middle as a garnish. YUM!
Razor clam (navajas) platter at Bar Central
But the highlight, of course, was the razor clam platter.  This cost about 20 € (for, like, 7 clams!) but it was worth every céntimo!  Just as delightful as we remembered from the day before, every bite was utter perfection.  SO good!  We were so inspired by this that we made razor clams a part of our Christmas feast - but we cooked them in a garlic white wine sauce, and, sigh, it's just not the same as grilled.  But it was still pretty good.

So!  The next time you decide to go to Barcelona, PLEASE plan a trip to this stall at the market (don't forget wet naps/tissues!) - and then tell me all about it! :D

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