I have lived in Barcelona for 10 years. Currently, I live in the Borne neighborhood, in the heart of the city’s old town, where tourists out number the locals. Restaurants in this area generally cater to the former, so as a local it is almost impossible to find some place that isn’t completely overrun by snappy waiters bringing you over priced and totally under-whelming food.
Not so in this case. Tucked in a side street next to La Estacion de Francia, you would pass by this place and not even give it a second thought. I myself have passed by about a thousand times, and only because a very good friend of mine, whom I trust completely when it comes to food and restaurants, told me that this was a pretty spectacular place. Last night, Paolo and I decided to try it, because it was close to home and we really didn’t feel like cooking. From the look of it on the outside, I honestly expected very normal food, more like these places you go to that have some salads, some croquetas, some beef, some fish but nothing out of this world. One look at the menu, and boy, how wrong I was.
The first thing I realized, that if you like cod, this is the place to go. Barcelona is a city that adores its cod. You can find it in so many different ways, from fritters to salads, to croquetas and then more than 20 main dishes. Stuffed with foie, “a la llauna” which loosely translates in the can, but that just means it’s braised in sauce in an earthenware dish, al pil pil….the list goes on. La Estrella had about 6 different dishes paying homage to this humble yet delicious fish.
The Maitre, Jordi, came to our table, and started to explain all the dishes that were off the menu that night. First of all, let me tell you it is a true joy to go to a restaurant that has no Michelin stars and find such impeccable and truly passionate service. You can tell that this is what he loves to do, and it comes through. After he explained the aforementioned, we chose 3 dishes off menu. How could we not? We were completely enthralled and practically salivating at the descriptions. And I kid you not, they surpassed our expectations.
After we placed our order, I chose one of my favorite white wines. Vallegarcia Viognier, from Castilla- La Mancha. He replied that it was an excellent selection, and promptly brought out a very large decanter on ice. I was incredibly thrilled, because not many restaurants decant white wine for you, and I thought it was a wonderful touch.
Jordi explained that he loves decanting this wine, because it changes as it breathes. I wholeheartedly agree.
We were brought out an amuse bouche of Codfish Brandade, very popular here in Catalonia and also in Southern France, it’s a smooth mousse of cod baked in cream and spices. Rich, decadent and delicious.
It’s more common incarnations is actually stuffed in piquillo peppers, but I love the stuff, and was very happy that it was schmeared on some buttery toast. Perfect small bite that was a harbinger of the rest of our amazing meal.
Our first appetizer was razor clams from the delta of the Ebro river with walnuts sautéed in olive oil.
Our maitre explained that these razor clams from the delta, are much smaller than the ocean variety that you find here. Also, being much sweeter and fatter on the inside, the one very big difference is that they contain no sand. We were pleasantly surprised to find he was right, not a trace to be found. The walnuts were a perfect match, giving it umami, and not even salt was necessary since the razor clams were super sweet and tender. I personally devoured about 8 of them in the matter of minutes.
Next up is one of the house classic specialties, Gratineed Asparagus with Cabrales cheese and sautéed walnuts.
Cabrales cheese is a very strong blue cheese from Asturia. On its own it can be overwhelming in taste. Combined with the nuttiness of the asparagus and the walnuts that tempered it, it became softer and more nuanced. Something that needs to be mentioned, is that the asparagus were cooked to perfection. Perfectly crispy. There is nothing more horrible than limp watery asparagus. This dish is meant to be eaten with some bread, because you will be mopping up the cheese after you’ve eaten all the asparagus.
Now on to our main dishes.
I went for another reiteration of “Surf and Turf”, this time with something that I just started eating this year. Pigs trotters.
What a fabulous combination! Completely de-boned pigs trotters, lightly crusted with bread crumbs, with porcini mushrooms and a shrimp sauce. This is Catalan food at its best. Taking one of the most unassuming and honestly peasant like foods and pairing it with royalty, the porcini and a smooth veloute of shrimp. The layers of flavors is amazing, the brininess of the shrimp veloute, then you get a punch of the smokiness of the trotters, lastly being rounded out with the earthy umami of the porcini’s. I was glad that we chose off menu.
The star of the night, in my and Paolo’s opinion was the tuna.
The über fresh (brought it at 9pm that night) Yellowfin Tuna, with a touch of smoked sea salt and tomato confit. One bite and fireworks went off in our mouths. The tuna, being so fresh, was treated like any fresh fish should, let it sing on its own. The smoked salt elevated the tuna, and the tomato confit was the perfect partner in this amazing duo. I secretly wished I had ordered this, not because mine wasn’t amazing, but I just know that tuna this fresh and perfect is hard to come by.
Now, on to our desserts. By this time, I realized that the chef, a.k.a, the Maitre’s wife, had attended the same culinary school that I did. That basically means, the desserts are going to be spectacular.
Tiramisu with home-made Chestnut Ice Cream. It was delicious. One of the best tiramisu’s I have tried here in Barcelona. The Mascarpone was creamy and light, the biscuits soaked in espresso were dense and moist without falling apart. The addition of chestnut ice cream was an excellent choice.
Paolo chose the homemade Salted Caramel ice cream.
Whoa Nelly!!! I love caramel. I love salted caramel. I kept on going back between the two and uttering “Oh my God, it’s so good.” Honestly, they were both amazing. I can’t wait to go back because they have all these other desserts that I want to try, like a six layer homage to chocolate in different textures, a cactus and lemon sorbet, goat cheese ice cream….and a few more that I can’t remember but I know that when he mentioned them, I wanted to eat them all.
This is an absolute “must go” restaurant in Barcelona. Service, food and wine all impeccable. Go with an empty stomach, you won’t want to leave a thing on your plate!
Restaurant La Estrella
Calle Ocata, 6
+34 93 310 2768