Dinner starts with a series of tapas, including the rose-lychee baby scallops (left)

BARCELONA
For my last tasting dinner in Spain, I visited Gelonch restaurant in the bohemian neighborhood known as Eixample.

Gelonch is a tiny restaurant and its reputation of creating innovative Catalan dishes draws a lot of visitors from different countries to taste the food of Chef/Owner Robert Gelonch. On a Monday night when I dined with my sister and niece, the other tables were primarily filled with English-speaking tourists.

The 74 euro ($90) tasting menu starts out true to Spain’s tradition of tapas, or small bites. A parade of small dishes came out all at once, starting with a bowl of mojito paper, followed by rose-lychee baby scallops, miniature razor clams with sweet ginger and mango, black onion cake with sweet onion foam, and prawn and cod brandade with shrimp chips.

Our table filled with the tiny tapas looked quite festive, and I really enjoyed the prawn and cod brandade and black onion cake, which had a definite umami flavor. But the rose-lychee baby scallops and miniature razor clams were so small I could barely taste anything as I quickly gulped the teeny-tiny bite.

Sheets of mojito paper had a minty flavor (top) and burst of flavor came from the prawn-cod brandade in crispy shrimp wrapper (bottom)

A real molecular gastronomical presentation came with the carrot-orange nitro popcorn, which was basically carrot and orange soup that was dehydrated with nitroglycerin and presented as a bowl of popcorn. It was pretty although the shapes weren’t as much popcorn as they were more like crumpled cardboard. My niece had fun biting into the pieces and watching a puff of smoke come out of her mouth because of the cold, but it lacked any real taste.

The evening improved with the delightful duck maigret mini burrito, which was a tiny burrito filled with tasty duck meat, and a nice presentation of a sliver of silver leaf on the burrito to give the feel of the aluminum often wrapped around a real burrito.

We had a nice server who spoke English and explained the dishes, but we often had to wait because she was the only person working the entire room. (Again, it was a small room with maybe five tables on the first floor, but with one server it can create some wait.) And even though our reservation was for only 30 minutes after the restaurant opened, the kitchen was already out of a few ingredients as our server explained how certain dishes from the tasting menu had to be substituted.

A replacement dish of cuttlefish and deconstructed pesto

For example, a 24-hour sous vide jamon pork pancetta with grilled octopus was not available for our dinner. Instead, we got a plate of cuttlefish with deconstructed pesto. While it was a delicate dish with nice pesto flavor, it seemed to pale to even the description of the 24-hour sous vide pork pancetta.

While the dinner started off creatively with the tapas, it progressed to the point where most of the dishes started taking on the same savory brown flavor. From the shitake mushroom broth with spider crab ravioli to the black turnip with veal bone marrow, they all seemed to have that brown gravy flavor, even starting to all look the same with the familiar brown gravy touches on the plate.

The dessert courses had interesting touches of Spanish flavor, from the guacamole ice cream to the roasted tomato tiles, but they again didn’t seem to stand out in either flavor or presentation. In fact, many of the plates didn’t seem to showcase the ingredients as refined or cleverly as I’ve seen in previous gastronomical dinners in Spain.

Gelonch is a nice getaway from the tourist scene, bringing you to a neighborly spot for a tasting meal that’s commendable and ambitious but rarely ends with amazement.

Rating: 2.5 out of 4 camera snaps

 

 

Gelonch, c/Bailen, 56, Barcelona. PH: (34) 93.265.82.98. Open Mon.–Sat., dinner from 8–10:30 p.m. Reservations, major credit cards accepted. www.gelonch.es

Black onion cake with sweet onion foam and fried onions

Miniature razor clams with sweet ginger and mango

My favorite dish of mini duck maigret burrito with silver leaf

Carrot-orange nitroglycerin “popcorn”

Shitake mushroom broth with spider crab ravioli and iberian ham

Funky lights above our table

Grilled red prawns with pisco, cabbage and hibiscus (top) and the small Gelonch dining room

Black turnip with veal bone marrow, turnip foam, egg yolk and black truffle shavings

Beetroot gnochi with veal sweetbreads

“Secret Iberico” cooked sous vide for 36 hours

Assorted cheese plate with honey crisp and coffee crumbles

Final dessert plates: Aubergine sorbet with guacamole ice cream (top) and pistachio ice cream with lemon custard and roasted tomato tiles (bottom)

3 Responses to Molecular Gastronomy that Shines in the Tapas

  1. martin says:

    wow this look fantastic, do you know how many stars this restaurant have in the Michelin Guide, it must be highly rated! these tapas seems very tasty, I want to try this !!

    • Ben Ben says:

      I don’t think it’s received a Michelin star, but my guess is it probably will in a year’s time. It’s service and food is on par with other one star restaurants. I did go to El Club Allard in Madrid, which is one star, and it is superior to Gelonch. So now that I think about it, it might not get a star since El Club Allard only has one and it was pretty stellar.

  2. Sandy says:

    Oh my… what a meal of innovation and experiments done right! The black onion cake and carrot-orange popcorn look amazing! Also– I love how that duck burrito has a bit of silver leaf (like the foil from street burritos!).