Friday, March 11, 2011

Hisop Review: Contemporary Catalan in Barcelona

For our first dinner in Barcelona on Tuesday night, we had 10:00pm reservations at Hisop, just north of the Diagonal. The space is small and very minimalist and glossy with red, black and white scheme that seems to be the trend in Barcelona. I was really looking forward to this one michelin star restaurant, but unfortunately left little disappointed; it was the only less than stellar sit-down meal of our whole trip. Perhaps we didn't order right; this was the first place where we did not order a tasting menu but instead ordered a la carte. The tasting menu included three half portions of the octopus, John Dory fish and suckling pig in addition to a cheese course and dessert.  We had just had amazing suckling pig the night before at Urepel plus plenty of octopus and fish in San Sebastian, so the tasting menu wasn't appealing to us.  However, at 48 euro, it was definitely a better deal and perhaps a better meal than what we ended up with.  In particular, our entrees were disappointing.  The food was a little bit too minimalist and just didn't have that "wow" factor.  Service started out pretty friendly but turned rather abrupt towards the end, probably because we were one of the last tables in the restaurant.  Over the trip, we've found the Spanish late dining habit to be a bit of a myth; we were the last tables remaining in the restaurants with our two 10:00pm reservations, and even with our earlier reservations, not many tables were seated after us.  Dinner for two was 180 euros including 2 bottles of Priorat (which we didn't finish) and water.
Olive bread with two kinds of olive oil.  I really fell in love with Spanish olive oil during this trip; it's very different from the Italian olive oil that I normally use.  I would describe it as a little more peppery rather than fruity.
Cold pea soup amuse bouche.  Refreshing and a good appetite whetter
Squid with truffle over pea shoots (or green beans) amuse bouche.  Also refreshing; quite a delicate dish, I couldn't really discern the truffle flavor
"After Eight" Foie Gras.  Now this was really interesting and probably my favorite dish of the night, since foie really can't go wrong for me.  A curious combination of shaved minty chocolate over foie gras.
Sea urchin rice with beans.  The uni flavor was very refined and subtle and went well with the broad beans.  Good dish, but not the most memorable dish
Rack of lamb with parsnips, sage and blueberries.  The lamb was just way too rare, almost impossible to chew.  All you really tasted was rare lamb, the other flavors got lost

Pigeon and Truffle Surprise with two sauces: a truffle sauce and an au jus type sauce.  I preferred the more savory au jus sauce, the truffle sauce was too subtle.  I'm not sure what the "surprise" was.  It was good, but not particularly special
Cheese plate with quince jelly for dessert.  Mostly spanish cheese with one french cheese
After dinner, since we were in the area, we walked over the Luz de Gaz, a live music club just one block over, for some entertaining music from "La Vella Dixieland."  The place was pretty empty when we walked in after midnight (concert started at 12:30am), but it was packed by the time we left.  It was a fun time although I'm still outraged about my bottle of Coke and water that cost 16 euros.

Hisop (reservations online)
Ptge Marimon, 9
Barcelona 08021

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