Barcelona Dining, So Far… Txapela

April 21st, 2008 at 6:41 am (AST) by Jake Richter

As some of you may know, the three older Richters are foodies. Bas is slowly getting more adventurous too, and for an 11 year old boy, does well (his favorite foods include mussels, snails, and steak tartar), but he doesn’t hold a candle to the rest of us.

As foodies, we try to explore the local cuisines of areas we visit, and here in Barcelona, there are three overlapping cuisines we were are working to sample and experience: Catalan, Mediterranean, and Spanish. That’s in conjunction with some excellent Spanish wines, of course, as well as with another wine-based concoction: Sangria.

As mentioned in my previous post, dining times here in Spain are a bit unusual from an American perspective. Most local restaurants are open for lunch until about 4pm, and then re-open around 8:30-9pm (some as late as 10pm) for dinner. Back home we usually have lunch between Noon and 1pm, and dinner starting betweek 6 and 7pm). I’m hoping jet-lag makes the whole adjustment to later dining times easier.

So far we have dined at four restaurants, with a failed attempt to dine at yet one more.

Our two lunch experiences have both been at places which offer a popular form of Spanish dining, namely something called “Tapas“, with the restaurants serving Tapas frequently referred to as Tapas Bars. Spoken quickly this sounds like “Topless Bars”, a misunderstanding which is a source of frequent amusement to us.

Tapas Bars in the U.S. are bars (as in alcohol bars) which serve Tapas, while here in Barcelone, they are bars more along the line of Sushi Bars – you can set at the “bar” and select from a variety of Tapas shown under glass at said bar.

So what are Tapas? Well, the term refers to small plates of a particular food item – it might be a cold food, like marinated octopus or ham on small slices of bread, or hot food like skewers of meat or patatas bravas (chunks of potato with a spicy sauce).

The plates either comes as individual items for one person or as a slightly larger small plate featuring multiple portions of the ordered item, ideal for sharing with others at your table. Our experience with Tapas in the U.S. so far had been with the latter approach – you typically get enough for sharing with one or two other people, and make a meal of ordering a half dozen different Tapas items which are all shared.

Our first restaurant was Txapela (pronounced “Chapella”), a couple blocks from our hotel, right near the busy intersection of Passeig de Gracia and Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes. While the weather was still a bit brisk, it was a beautiful afternoon, so we sat outside at the cafe portion of the restaurant. Our waitress did not speak English, and our Catalan and Spanish were minimal, but thanks to a pictographic menu of Tapas, we were able to order our Tapas-based meal without too many complications. The tapas at Txapela were the first single portion size tapas we had ever experienced. We ended up ordering two or three of each of the kinds we wanted to sample (about ten different kinds overall), and enjoyed them all. We accompanied the meal with a couple of pitchers of sangria, a blend of wine, fruit, fruit juices, and as we discovered in this case, a heavy dose of sugar too. While the food was good, service, while friendly, was a bit spotty. For the six of us, the bill came to around 120 Euros (about US$190). Based on what we’ve been seeing of prices here, that’s not unreasonable, and certainly eating outdoors was a pleasure (albeit a bit cold for those of us with thin blood) as we could do all sorts of people watching. Txapela gets a 7.0 out of 10.0 on The Richter Scale.

 

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