Dining out on Barcelona on a Sunday or Monday evening is brutal. Most nice restaurants - virtually every single one on my list of places I wanted to try - were not open on Sundays and Mondays.
Alas, my trip was short – arriving on Sunday and leaving on Wednesday afternoon. Worse yet, Bryan had a business dinner on Tuesday, which meant the only two days we had together were days when all the restaurants were closed.
Thankfully, there are a handful that are open. Most notably, ABaC, one of only four restaurants in Barcelona with two Michelin stars (there are no 3-Michelin starred restaurants in Barcelona), was open on Sunday evening. They are linked to a hotel, which might be part of the reason.
ABaC is not terribly far from Park Guell, one of the top tourist attractions that’s located a bit further north compared to many of the other sites which are closer to the center of the city.
ABaC only offer tasting menus, and there are two: a 12-course for €140 and a 16-course for €170. After looking at the tasting selections (which have a few overlapping dishes but are more different than similar), we both decided that the dishes on the 16-course side looked interesting, so we went wit that. Bryan also ordered the pairing (€85), while I just ordered a couple wines by the glass.
ABaC Barcelona - The Tasting Menu
We started out with a Bloody Beer, ABaC’s creative twist on a bloody Mary. The refreshing “cocktail” had a beautifully strong tomato flavor (reminded me of intensely flavored “tomato water” that I’ve had at other restaurants), beer, and a perfect level of salt and heat.
Served in cute beer bottles, it was the perfect match for the rock mussels that accompanied the dish. All in all, it was a great start to the meal.
The next course, Marrow Soup + Tuna Rib, was really interesting. On one side stood a barely seared piece of tuna with the rib still attached. Underneath was a bone-shaped “bowl” that looked like the vertebrate of a large animal. Inside the bone was a decadently creamy cold marrow soup that also had elements of oyster brine and other elements of umami. It was lovely.
On the other side was a single local, sweet raw oyster served with sunflower foam. The oyster was definitely on the sweet side, reminding me more of a west coast oyster than an east coast oyster. I loved the salty “whoosh” from the sunflower foam, which balanced out the sweet oyster nicely.
Right around this time, our server brought out a glass dish filled with roasted prawn heads and shells. He lit a burner and started cooking the shells in a broth. “This is prawn dashi” he explained.
The next course was refreshingly local and very Catalonian. Out came a piece of Toast and Cured Anchovy. The server brought a whole tomato, olive oil, and a mortar and pestle.
He then began to slowly pound the tomato together with olive oil.
“bang bang bang bang” . . .
It would be a sound we would hear repeated throughout the night as other tables also enjoyed the same tasting menu.
Finally, we put a bit of the tomato paste on our toast and topped it off with the anchovy.
One perfect bite. It was excellent.
By this time, the Prawn Dashi was ready to go. Our server extinguished the flame and poured out the broth for us to enjoy. In front, there were two prawn heads that were barely cooked (basically raw).
The instructions: try the broth first on its own. Then slurp the insides of the prawn head. Even for someone who’s reasonably comfortable eating more unusual foods, I was still a bit weirded out by the idea of slurping the shrimp’s head (even though I know that’s where all of the flavor is!).
Nevertheless, I did it, and it was delicious. The meat inside the prawn head definitely had a raw texture (reminded me of sashimi), and there were all sorts of flavors inside the head, from the natural deep flavors of prawn to something citrusy and light. I’m not sure what they added inside, but there was definitely something else in there.
The prawn bouillabaisse made from the prawn dashi was deliciously fragrant and intensely flavorful.
The next course took us to memories in Hong Kong – it was Chef Jordi’s interpretation of a Steamed Bun. The bun itself was very soft inside, like brioche, yet just slightly crispy on the outside. It was delicate and beautiful executed, reminding us of the magical baked chashu baos we get at top dimsum restaurants in Hong Kong.
The filling, made of pork and a deeply flavored teriyaki sauce, was rich, and meaty. I enjoyed the Spanish-Japanese twist – dipping it in a mixture of freshly grated wasabi and garlic aoli. The combination worked beautifully, adding zing to the sweet pork.
Next came a whole red onion that seemed charred on the outside.
Our server lifted the “top” and viola! – Onion Soup!
He explained the soup contained mozzarella balls from Italy and walnuts. What he left as a surprise was the fact that there were no ordinary mozzarella balls. They were spherified balls filled with mozzarella liquid. We discovered that as soon as we tried biting into one of these “balls.”
The onion soup had lovely flavors, reminding me a lot of a very good French onion soup. Inside, we experienced different flavors depending on whether we bit into a walnut, a salty cubed cheese, or an exploding liquid filled mozzarella ball.
The next course was yet another twist on class Spanish dishes. Here, we thought we were eating Squid Ink Risotto. It turns out that there are whole baby squid in the black “risotto.” However, the “risotto” actually turned out to be squid, cut into tiny pieces so that they resembled rice.
The flavors were intensely deep and rich with oceany umami from all those squid components: the black squid ink, the squid “risotto”, and the whole baby squid. Bits of crunchy wild rice added a nice textural “crunch” to the whole dish.
The next dish was phenomenal and totally surprised and delighted us. It was a Pine Nut Carbonara with quail eggs and shaved white truffles (!). We had no idea what a pine nut risotto would taste like, but it was amazing!
The texture was a bit like a bean, but more al dente. The decadent cream sauce blended quite nicely with the quail egg, resulting in a gorgeous sauce that neither of us could stop eating. The white truffles on top perfected the dish, which paired beautifully with the white burgundy.
I loved how the tasting had been pretty light up to this point. Our first more substantial course was a Turbot Filet served with oysters in a seaweed sauce. The fish was perfectly cooked, and the oysters and seaweed added additional umami that made the overall dish quite nice.
The next course, Tuna with Beef Sauce, was really, really interesting. When we took our first bite, we couldn’t believe we weren’t eating beef. Somehow chef Jordi had managed to make tuna taste like a better version of beef.
It was even more tender, soft, and yet still had tons of that meaty flavor from the beef sauce and beef tendon/fat served with the dish. It reminded me of a rich and decadent dish of short ribs, but even more tender than normal short ribs.
On the side, these came with very creamy mashed potatoes (reminded me of the famous Joel Robuchon mashed potatoes), and a single curly potato chip.
Our last savory course was Lamb with Goat’s Milk Curd Sauce (sort of like yogurt). Bryan loved the pairing of the gamey lamb with the creamy, almost yogurt-like curd sauce.
For dessert, Bryan did something unusual and asked whether he could get cheese instead of the next three (!) dessert courses. I decided to stick with the tasting menu. This way, the two of us could try more things.
I can’t remember exactly what cheeses came on the cart, but there were six of them, and Bryan asked to try them all. He loved them, narrowing down to two favorites – one which was a harder cheese that tasted like a mix between Reggiano and Compte, the other was a stinky washed rind cheese with a creamy center. Most of the cheese came either from France or were local to Catalonia.
The first dessert was light and fruity – fresh mango sorbet and mango fruit came with gin and tonic “bubbles”, spherified balls that filled with fizzy gin and tonic. It was fun with familiar flavors.
The next dessert involved quite an elaborate product. First, before the cheese came out, the server had brought over a glass pot filled with smoked wood chips. She lit a fire underneath. During our next course, we watched this bubbling concoction before us.
After the gin & tonic dessert, our server came back and filtered out the wood chips, pouring a clear, dark liquid into a round glass bowl.
Liquid nitrogen flowed, a ton of gas flowed out, and before you know it, there was instant ice cream.
I enjoyed the smoky, woodsy, vanilla-infused wood chip flavored ice cream together with a dark chocolate cake.
Finally, after a really long time (admittedly, service has slowed down ever since the restaurant got busy), we got our freeze dried raspberry “tarts” as well as several mignardises.
Lots of chocolate!
They gave Bryan a share of all these little bites.
The funniest one was raspberry sorbet served in a lipstick shaped container.
All in all, the mignardises were fun, nothing particularly innovative, but all solidly executed.
ABaC Barcelona - General Thoughts
We were really impressed with all of the food at ABaC. Each course clearly had a lot of thought put into it, everything from the way it’s presented at the table to the flavors that come together upon each bite. Chef Jordi is doing many innovative things, mixing in influences from all over the world. I especially enjoyed the Catalan/Spanish-influenced dishes, since that’s something that is more unique to this area.
I would highly recommend coming here!
One thing to note – we did struggle to find a taxi back into the city after our dinner ended. Since dinner reservations don’t open until 9PM, our meal did not end until after midnight. Sunday evenings in the outskirts of Barcelona are tough places to find a taxi. Make arrangements beforehand, if possible. We eventually found a taxi, but had to wait an additional 20-30 minutes. We didn’t get home until 1AM.