This is part 11 of the series on San Sebastian, Girona, and Barcelona, Spain. Other parts of this series (as they become available) can be found at this link.
The world was devastated when legendary El Bulli in Spain announced it was closing in 2011. Ferran Adrià’s groundbreaking restaurant influenced a generation of chefs, ushering in an era of molecular gastronomy, using creative scientific techniques to push the boundaries of food.
I remember at the time hearing about how some of El Bulli would live on at Tickets, a more casual tapas bar by Ferran and his brother Albert Adrià. Several beloved signatures dishes from El Bulli are featured at Tickets. Additionally, the whimsical, fun, circus-inspired restaurant still has the El Bulli spirit, experimenting with flavors, textures, and various elements of surprise through the use of molecular techniques.
We had been trying to reserve seats for weeks but to no avail. And then, literally one day before we were leaving Spain, our friend just happened to log into the app and saw an opening. He grabbed it within seconds.
Score! The time was tight, but we thought we could make it to Tickets right before our flight. We brought our suitcases to Tickets and enjoyed a fabulous last meal in Spain before heading to the airport. What a way to end the trip!
The atmosphere inside Tickets is relaxed, playful, and fun. The service is casual yet top notch (we were carrying suitcases and they took care of seamlessly). Our server was totally a pro and took excellent care of us.
The menu has many a la carte items, or you can leave it up to the chef and let the restaurant devise a fun tasting menu for you. We opted for the latter, telling them about our time constraints. It worked out beautifully, and we had so much fun. Here’s a look at the tasting menu they designed for us.
We each began with a single cherry soaked in cabernet vinegar and served with a baby basil leaf. Anchovy “00” with “piparrak” juice (4.20 Euros). The server recommended that we roll in up and enjoy in one bite.
The Olive-S (2.30 Euros) was a signature dish from El Bulli and can be found all over the world at El Bulli proteges, such as at Jose Andres’ restaurants (where I first had it). These unique olives, flavored with cinnamon and star anise, are made using a spherification technique that results in a soft, gelatinous olive that explodes with olive liquid inside. Most certainly eat this one in one bite!
Squid (24 Euros) consists of a single slice of raw squid with horseradish and six different puffed cereals.
A variation of the classic Spanish pan con tomate (one of my favorite things to eat in the world!), this air-filled crispy bread topped with tomato and garlic was pretty classic, though it came served with a grilled mackerel topped with a small slice of jamon Iberico.
We loved this next course. The single mussel looked ordinary, until we realized that the mussel itself was encased in a jamon consomme gel (!).
A single fresh oyster with red pickle “Escabeche” sauce was lovely as well.
I am a HUGE fan of ultra light, crispy crackers, and this Avocado Pizza (9.60 Euros) was brilliant, with thin slices of avocado and a chipotle mayo served with king crab on the side.
One of the several signature carry-overs from E Bulli, the Airbaguette (6.60 Euros) is a hollow, crispy cracker that’s shaped like a baguette and wrapped with thin, cured slices of Rubia Gallega beef cured to look and taste like the classic Spanish snack of jamon with bread.
Rubia Gallega is one of Spain’s most famous and well-respected types of beef originating from Galicia. Rubia Gallega beef comes from cows who are between 12 and 18 years old and spend their lives grazing salt pastures in a stress-free environment. The crispy baguette was so airy, so light, and so crispy. It went perfectly with the cured meat. Delicious.
Nordic Landscape (5.10 Euros) was a winter scene. A thin, flat cracker base was topped with marinated aged beef cubes, smoked cheese, pickled onions, and a white powder that they made us guess. After one taste, I immediate guessed vinegar, and I was right!
Avocado, shrimp, and roe was beautifully presented and tasted just like it looks - fresh, flavorful, and balanced.
We followed with an unusual preparation of prawn. The tail was cold (like sashimi, almost) but the head was warm. It’s like they were trying to optimize by using different preparations on different parts of the same prawn.
The server said, “eat the tail and then slurp the juices from the head.” I did feel slightly squeamish, but I got over it and enjoyed the unusual dish. In fact, to be honest, the juice in the head is probably the most flavorful part of the whole shrimp, and many-a-seafood stocks have been made using them.
I have had sea cucumber many, many times growing up and also in Asia at various Chinese restaurants. I have always thought of it as a flavorless, gelatinous blob. This preparation was the most interestin I’d ever had. It was thinly sliced, barely cooked with some hot water, and then served with shiso leaf. The texture was crunchier, sort of like squid a bit. We actually all really liked it.
Marrow with Eggplant surprised us because the marrow was atually not located inside the bone, but instead in little potato cups outside. Inside the bone cavity was a roasted eggplant, which really looked convincingly like bone marrow.
King Crab leg with “ñora” hot foam (17 Euros per 100g) was well executed and delicious, though less interesting than some of the other dishes.
Wagyu Beef charcoal grilled in a Josper grill was excellent, though similarly less unique and unusual.
I already told you I am a sucker for crackers yet? I fell in love with the cheese course, which consisted of a thin cracker topped with a pile of shaved cheese, fresh olive oil, and some herbs. It was soooo good.
We had originally planned on dessert, but we had a plane to catch. The staff were excellent and took wonderful care of us. We appreciated how they accommodated our tight schedule, taking care of our luggage while we ate and then placing everything neatly right at the door as headed out. It made for the smoothest possible pre-airport meal imaginable.
What can I say?
We loved Tickets and I can see why it’s so popular (number 20 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list in 2019.
The food is creative, delicious, and surprising. The atmosphere is whimsical and fun, and the service is top notch. Prices are reasonable, especially for the quality. Must visit if you’re in Barcelona!
Tickets Bar Barcelona
Avinguda del Paral·lel, 164, 08015