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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Rias de Galicia

(If you are reading this post on a RSS reader, you might want to click through to Chez Pim for the slideshow.

What does it tell you when you sit down to dinner at a restaurant and, a few minutes later, one of the most famous chefs in the world comes in and sit down at the next table? It says this is gonna be good, this time at least.

No, this wasn't at some fancy do. It wasn't planned, even. It was at a random restaurant, on a random night, entirely by accident.

Well, I supposed it's not so random. The town was Barcelona. The night was Monday, when most other places are closed. And the place was arguably the best seafood restaurant in town. The chef wasn't random either. Half of you probably guessed who it was already. Yes, none other than Ferran Adrià.

And, no, I'm not about to recount a seafood dinner with spherical langouste or pulpito espuma -not that oyster dirt wouldn't be fun once in a while, I guess. But you won't find any modern wizardry or technique here. No Centrifuge. No chemical additives. Nor will you find italics or "quotation marks" on the menu, I promise you.

This place is simple, supremely simple, and brilliantly so. It's called Rias de Galicia. I first thought it meant the joy of Galicia or some such approximation. Me no speako Espagnol. Happily Wikipedia (and my friend Pedro) rescued me from saying such outlandish a thing on my blog for all to see. In fact, the rias of Galicia were once river valley and estuaries that are now covered by the risen seawater. It's that special geographic characteristic of the Galician coast -where the Cantabrian sea meets the vast Atlantic ocean- that makes it such a fertile area for seafood.

The restaurant lives up to the reputation that night. And, no, it has nothing to do with Ferran Adria telling us that this was his favorite seafood place in town. It helps, I give you, but the food speaks for itself too. The only not so great –and not entirely unexpected- thing is the price also speaks quality here. Quite Loudly So. Our meal costs nearly 700 euros, for the four of us, me, David, Pedro, and another Barcelona friend, the blogger known as the Silly Disciple. It's a light meal, and frankly David and I could have put that entire thing away ourselves had we been just a tad ravenous.

But thinking back to the food -gelatinous octopus, so fresh it practically quivers on the plate, or those hard to find Angulas, mini elvers or baby eels, impeccably fresh, fried simply in a casuela with olive oil and a few slivers of garlic- I can hardly hold my grudge. We also had sweet, sweet oysters, flavorful corrugated clams, mini pulpitos, cooked until tender and served on top of potatoes, and a big plate of amazingly flavorful prawns adorn only with a wedge of lemon. Yes, and how could I forget the delicious if messy Percebes. My delicate white linen summer dress won't forget it either.

It's definitely the best seafood meal I've had in Barcelona. Though I still won't put it pass my favorite Elkano yet –I still dream of that Turbot- but that's beside the point since Getaria -where Elkano locates- is like way up in the Basque country. Next time I'm in Barcelona and want a seriously seafood meal I'll be back again at Rias de Galicia, wearing a raincoat over my nice white dress, and hi-fiving Ferran Adria on the way in.

Rias de Galicia
Calle Lerida, 7
Barcelona, 8004
Phone, 93-423-45-70

P.S. Mark Bittman wrote about Rias de Galicia last week for the NY Times. No, I didn't go there because of that recommendation, we'd already come and gone by then.

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