Txapela (2) – Barcelona

I had wanted to take N to Ciudad Condal because it’s my favourite and I had been raving about it to her, but unfortunately there was a huge line up and I didn’t see my favourite salmon montadito. We were hungry since I got off school really late, so it was already almost 9pm. Typical Spanish time for dinner, but not so much for us! We wandered around Passeig de Gracia, and we walked in Txapela. I had previously blogged about Txapela here: Txapela, and while this one was also on Passeig de Gracia, we later found that they had two locations! This one was much smaller and more like a bar. When we went in, it was basically empty to my surprise..

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Pintxo Gernika – Crab Salad

We sat at the bar and they had some pintxos already pre-made sitting in behind the glass counter. They looked pretty and appealed to us, so we got some. We chose the Pintxo Gernika, which was an imitation crab salad topped with mini massago. This was refreshing. I do find that the bread at Txapela to be much thicker than the ones at Ciudad Condal. It makes you much more full. Something about the fact that they were pre-made and with the lack of customers made me question how fresh the food was. I mean, the food at Ciudad Condal sits at the top of the counters too, but there’s a constant flow of people, so the food turnovers quite quickly.

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Catalan Sausage Pintxo – Catalan sausage tartar with tomato and virgin olive oil and Pintxo Bidasoa – salmon roll stuffed with crab and mayonnaise

Another few also caught our eyes in the counter. N chose the Catalan Sausage Pintxo. She said it tasted like beef tartar but the seasoning was good. Not exactly sure what was on top of it though. We both got the Pintxo Bidasoa. I thought it looked a little like a carrot! No carrots in this pintxo, but smoked salmon! I’ve found a new love for smoked salmon since my time in Barcelona, so it was a must order. I find that the smoked salmon in Barcelona is not salty at all like the ones we have in Vancouver. Imitation crab salad was wrapped with the piece of smoked salmon. It was placed on top of a piece of lettuce and drizzled with mayonnaise and topped with some caviar. Again, I thought this was great, but I found it a little cold. It would’ve tasted much better if it was at least slightly warm.

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Croquette Pintxo – Iberian Ham Croquette and Pintxo San Fermin – Crispy Chicken with “Chistorra” Sausage and Pepper

We decided to order some off the menu, which is on our placemat. I suggested N to try the Croquette Pintxo, since croquettes are very popular and typical in Spain, and most of my friends had enjoyed them. This was one filled with Iberian Ham. Came on top of a piece of lettuce as well. Again, it felt like it wasn’t really fresh. The croquette was just warm, and not hot. It felt like the other Txapela location had more people, so the food was much more fresh. N also ordered the Pintxo San Fermin, which had some mayo at the bottom, a crispy chicken on top, then a padron pepper, and lastly topped with a “Chistorra” sausage. She enjoyed it and said the sausage reminded her of those Chinese sausages you find at barbeque pork houses.

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Kebab Pintxo – Marinated Pork Loin Brochette

For myself, I got the Kebab Pintxo. Wasn’t sure what sort of meat it was when I looked at the picture, but it turns out to be pork loin. It was marinated in a feisty and slightly spicy sauce. We both thought it was really delicious.

Overall, I found this Txapela location to be a little disappointing. Service was great since we were bascially the only diners. They even helped N change her Fanta at no extra cost when we found a fly had flew into the drink. The only issue for me personally, is how fresh their food is.

Ciudad Condal (2) – Barcelona

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It was C’s birthday on the weekend, and as a foodie, she told me she hadn’t been to Ciudad Condal! Ciudad Condal is my favourite tapas spot in Barcelona, if you have read my previous post: Ciudad Condal. I told her it was a must and off we went with a few other friends! This time, we were smart and got a seat at the bar. Pictured above are just some of the salads they offer.

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And here are some of the montaditos, seafood and other tapas.

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My all time favourite Salmon Montadito! I just had to grab a picture of it!!

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Here, I chose two Salmon Montaditos. Again, it was flavourful and the salmon was fresh! In the middle was an Imitation Crab Salad Montadito topped with a pickle and shrimp. This was surprisingly really good too! The downside is that it’s imitation crab. Barcelona seems to use this ingredient a lot, and you will actually find this vastly in grocery stores.

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Grilled Cuttlefish

We finally got the correct Grilled Cuttlefish! This was absolutely amazing. The seasoning was perfect and the cuttlefish was so tender!

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Grilled Steak with Apples and Foie

I got this randomly and didn’t think much of it, but it was one of the best pintxo I’ve had! It was around two pieces of grilled steak, with alternating pieces of cooked apples, and topped with foie gras! Like holy! This was heaven. I didn’t know cooked apples could work so well with the rest of the ingredients. Sadly, I’ve been back another two times, and both times they did not have this pintxo again. Not sure why…

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Deep Fried Brie

We saw in front of us this weird looking nut coated bar on a stick and we asked what it was. Apparently it was brie! The chef would pop the stick in a deep fryer when you order it, and then they would place it on a slice of baguette and topped it with a strawberry sauce. Strawberry sauce and cheese? Yup, it worked! Such an odd combination but it was actually pretty good! Loved how when you cut the bar apart, the cheese would ooze out! It was nutty and cheesy, but sweet at the same time because of the sauce!

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Veal with Padron Peppers

Again, I got the Veal with Padron Peppers, which I had gotten at Cervecería Catalana. It was quite the same, with the veal cooked perfectly and lightly seasoned with salt.

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Pumpkin Cake with Sweet Port

Since it was C’s birthday, we ended dinner off with some sort of dessert. We didn’t imagine the cake to be a stick, but this was delicious! It was more like pumpkin spice, since the pumpkin flavour itself wasn’t too strong. It was also not really a cake, but more of a pastry. We found that pouring too much of the sweet port made the cake too bitter and alcohol-tasting. Otherwise, great dessert!

Mercat de Mercats 2013 Barcelona

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Mercat de Mercats is an outdoor food festival in Barcelona that lasts for three days. In English, it’s translated to Market of the Markets. In 2013, it took place in mid October near the Barcelona Cathedral as you can see in the back.

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Its a food festival to showcase the best of Catalan and Mediteranean food and cooking. There are around 30 market stalls, 50 local producers, 12 market and city bars and restaurants and 16 wine cellars, who take part! Pretty impressive! You’ll find everything from wines, cavas, oils, vinegars, cheeses, meats, seafood, and cooked tapas.

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I thought it was pretty cool that people were walking around with wine glasses since they had paid for some wine samples. Not something we normally see in Vancouver!

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I didn’t get a chance to try any of the food since I had just passed by after doing some grocery shopping alone. Wasn’t exactly in the mood to try food by myself. There were tons of good looking tapas though! I ended buying some olive oil and balsamic vinegars as gifts though. It was from a local producer with all the packaging done by the producers. Pretty neat to support local producers!

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Some of the stalls in La Boqueria market were present, including the burritos stand.

Check it out if you’re in Barcelona this year during the festival!

Tapas 24 – Barcelona

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On exchange, I was able to meet some amazing friends from all over the world. I was especially happy to have met C, who was from my hometown and was also a fellow food blogger! It was great to have someone understand the time we go through to write these posts and why we could take minutes just trying to take a good picture of our food. I have to say, C is a serious foodie compared to me! You can check out her food blog here: http://cherriehui.blogspot.ca/She definitely did her research, and suggested we go try out Tapas 24 as it is owned by Chef Carles Abellan. Carles is a Catalan chef who was trained at elBulli, which is a former restaurant famous for their molecular gastronomy. Now, Chef Carles has several Michelin star restaurants all over Barcelona, and Tapas 24 is just one of them. It’s probably one of the most casual and affordable restaurants he owns. The restaurant is always packed and we luckily got a seat outside.

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It’s cute how your utensils come in a little envelope with the menu on it. As you can see, prices are above average for small portions. It’s quality over quantity here, so definitely don’t come with an empty stomach unless you’re ready to empty your wallet.

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Sangria de Cava

We got a pitcher of Sangria de Cava for drinks, which is Sangria but instead of red wine, it’s champagne. Therefore, it’s a bit fizzy! This was good!

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Bikini Comerc 24

The Bikinis are one of Tapas 24’s most well known item. In Spain, Bikinis are essentially sandwiches with ham and cheese. Inside this prized Bikini, is a white mild cheese, jamon iberico, and flecks of black truffle! The sandwiches are cut into little pieces, and you can basically finish it in two bites. Extremely small for around 8 euros, but so worth it! The bread was toasted perfectly and the truffle flecks made a simple sandwich full of flavour. A must order!

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Les Braves

Braves are one of the most popular tapas in Spain. Chunks of bite size potatoes which are deep fried. They were topped with a garlic mayo and ketchup. The sauce was excellent and the potatoes weren’t oily. Excellent!

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McFoie – Burguer

The McFoie is also extremely popular at Tapas 24. I didn’t expect the burger to look like this, but it tasted so good! It’s essentially a beef patty mixed with foie gras and this is filled inside the burger like a pocket. I can’t even really describe how the outer burger was like. It’s definitely not a burger… It was crispy, warm and soft. It also came with a dipping sauce which was made of foie gras. It was like foie gras heaven. A small portion, but so good and well worth it if you’re a foie gras lover!

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Pan amb Tomaquet

Bread brushed with tomatoes is eaten at almost any Spanish restaurant. It’s interesting to note that Tapas 24’s menu is all in Catalan, so the menu names are a little confusing sometimes for a Spanish reader. However, our server was really nice and basically went down the whole menu and translated it into English despite her running around for several minutes before helping us. These were toasted to perfection and lathered lavishly with tomatoes, olive oil and lightly seasoned with salt.

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Alitas “coreanas”

These were Korean inspired Chicken Wings! This was off their regular menu and on a menu they had written on the chalkboard. Definitely one of our favourite dishes. The sauce had an Asian flare to it and was a little spicy. I loved how the chicken wings had the bones removed so it was easy to eat. The skin was slightly crispy and the meat was tender and moist.

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Sepionetas

These were baby grilled cuttlefish and they were also a big hit at our table. Cuttlefish in Barcelona are so tender! These were slightly grilled, topped with some olive oil, balsamic vinegar and lightly seasoned with salt. My favourite!

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Xocolata amb Oli

And for dessert, we got their signature Chocolate with olive Oil. Who would have thought olive oil would go with chocolate right? Well at Tapas 24, they know how to play with their ingredients. It was essentially scoops of chocolate mouse and it was drizzled with olive oil. On top, they placed pieces of thinly cut crostinis so you could scoop the mousse. The mousse was already smooth, and along with the olive oil, it was just chocolate heaven! It was also topped with some salt, so it was a mixture of sweet and savoury, which was unexpected, but somehow worked!

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All in all, Tapas 24 is worth a try if you’re ready to try something different and challenge your taste-buds. Their menu is very limited, but they do have some daily specials which are worth trying. It’s a cheaper alternative than trying the other elBulli restaurants which could really break your bank! And to finish today’s post off, is a view from the top of Montserrat. Montserrat is a multi-peaked mountain just a few hours away from Barcelona. If you’re ready for a hiking activity, challenge yourself by climbing to the peaks of Sant Jeroni for a spectacular view. If hiking is not your thing, then visit the Virgin of Montserrat sanctuary. The mountain is known for its religious significances in the past, but for myself, I was wowed by the beautiful formations of the mountains. Not exactly the same as the mountains in British Columbia, and the hike itself was actually pretty easy! Nothing compared to the Grouse Grind, so definitely check it out if you want a physical activity here in Barcelona.

Tapa Tapa (Arenas) – Barcelona

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I took a Spanish history class at ESADE, and it was one of the best classes offered there! Truly learned so much about Spain and coming from a country with such a young history, it was so interesting to actually finally understand some of the European history. One our our assignments was to visit an assigned site in Barcelona. For my group, we were assigned to visit the Olympic Museum and then check out the Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys, which was the stadium that was renovated for the 1992 Summer Olympics. For tourists who are only in Barcelona for a few days, the Museum is definitely not worth your time as it only gives a timeline of the history of the Olympics. However, the stadium is worth a visit if you are going to see Montjuic since it is on the way up the mountain and also free. Not anything impressive, but it’s pretty cool to know how the Olympics really changed Barcelona from a city of nothing to one of the top tourist destinations! The Barcelona Olympics is said to be one of the only Olympics where the investment and costs actually benefited the city more than any other host city in Olympic history. It’s almost difficult for any city to repeat the dramatic change that occurred.

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Anyways, after an afternoon researching for our assignment, we headed back to Plaza Espanya on the bus. Next to the Arenas, which is now a mall, but a bullfighting arena in the past, is Tapa Tapa. There are around 3-4 Tapa Tapas around Barcelona, and it’s known to be catered towards tourists.

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We chose to settle here anyways to grab a snack. The menu barra really caught our eyes since it was a pretty good deal. I believe the menu was only 8,60 euros, which is really cheap! An amazing deal, since most of their tapas are at least 3 euros anyways. I’ve been to other Tapa Tapas before as well, and I realized that they do not offer this lunch menu. I think it’s because the Tapa Tapa at the Arenas has less traffic, especially tourists. The other locations include Maremagnum at Port Vell and on Passeig Gracia, which constantly has tourists. Since it’s a tourist spot, they also offered an English menu to make things easy.

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I think what attracts tourists to Tapa Tapa are the colourful pictures of their menu that’s always placed outside. For foreigners, it’s always great to see pictures to know what they’re ordering.

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For our menu, we were given a choice of water, soda, or beer. I ended up choosing a sparkling water. It’s called “agua con gasse” in Spanish. I find that Europeans drink sparkling water a lot more than Americans. It’s not something very common for us. This one was called Vichy Catalan, and the bottle was really cute!

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Potato Omelet

We each ordered the set menu, but chose to share some of our food, so hence there are lots of food pictures! To start, we all chose the Potato Omelet, which is a typical Spanish tapa. I actually ate this quite frequently at school, since it was an affordable item at the school cafeteria. It would come in a sub with the potato omelet inside. Potato chunks are mixed with egg to form this little cube. It’s usually served cold and placed on bread that has been brushed with tomatoes.

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Lettuce with Goat Cheese Salad with Vinaigrette Dressing

My friends ordered this as they were huge fans of goat cheese. I still haven’t been able to acquire to this taste, so it was only okay for me. Came with some croutons, and the vinaigrette dressing really made the salad tasty!

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Three Cheese Risotto – Gorgonzola, Emmental, Brie

Some of us also got the Three Cheese Risotto. I loved this one! It was very creamy and cheesy since it had three types of cheese. For people who aren’t into very strong cheeses, this dish may be a little strong for your liking. Since I’m not into blue cheeses, the Gorgonzola really hit my taste buds. However, since it was mixed with two lighter cheeses, it wasn’t as strong.

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Three Cheese Croquettes

This was by far one of my favourites! Ever since my first time trying croquettes, I have been so into them! These were purely just cheese, and hence extremely cheesy when you bite into them. The outer layer was also deep fried, but not too oily.

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Crispy Shrimp

These were great to snack on! Reminded me of popcorn shrimp back at home. It came with a garlic mayo. The outer layer wasn’t too thick, and the shrimps were still fresh.

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Trio of Mini Hamburgers with Cheese, Onion and Mustard

This was also one of our favourites. They were actaully hamburgers without the burger. So essentially the beef patty only. On the left, the patty was topped with mustard. The mustard was so delicious! Not the cheap American yellow mustard on hot dogs. This was grainy mustard with mustard seeds still in it. My absolute favourite! In the middle was a patty topped with melted cheese. This was also quite good, but the cheese cooled down quickly, so wasn’t as cheesy anymore. Lastly, on the right was a patty topped with grilled onions. I didn’t expect this to taste anything special, but the seasoning they used on the onions and after being grilled really made it a great patty!

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To finish off your meal, there’s coffee! It’s popular to finish your meal with a cafe! We really enjoyed this since they let us choose any type of cafe. Usually, it’s strictly coffee. They let us choose and we chose the Cappuccino. It came with plenty of foam and topped with a bit of coffee powder. Not shabby!

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So even though many people say Tapa Tapa is just for tourists, I think the lunch menu at the Arenas is quite worth it. I’ve been to the other locations and don’t think it’s as worth the money you pay for, and agree that they are quite touristy. Our service was attentive, and sitting at the bar was lots of fun! You get a taste of typical Spanish tapas at a great value.

Cervecería Catalana – Barcelona

Cerveceria Catalana is Ciudad Condal’s sister restaurant. The layout of the restaurant is quite similar, with a bar table and dining seats as well. Focused on tapas, I find that the two restaurants offer many tapas that are the same. I couldn’t really tell a difference in terms of food or price. The only thing that seemed missing way my favourite smoked salmon montadito!

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Grilled Razor Clam

Razor clams aren’t very popular in Vancouver, but they are everywhere in Barcelona! I don’t recall myself eating them before, but my sister had and suggested we order them. The Grilled Razor Clams aren’t bad as they weren’t too tough or soft. It had a nice chewy texture to it and the light seasoning was perfect when grilled. A bit of seasalt and lemon made the dish perfect. However, in perhaps one or two of them, we found a little sand. It wasn’t a lot, but you could feel it. I guess they are quite difficult to clean. Because of the sand, I found them average.

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Grilled Cuttlefish

We finally ordered the right cuttlefish! The Grilled Cuttlefish is one of my favourite seafood to order in Barcelona. It’s a must order at Cerveceria Catalana or Ciudad Condal. The cuttlefish at these two restaurants are the most tender I’ve ever had. It has the same seasoning as the razor clams, and the simplicity of it is what makes this dish so wonderful. Absolutely love it!

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Foie with Roquefort Flauta

These are flautas. They are essentially a baguette sandwich, but mini sized and a bit narrower. We chose the flauta filled with Foie and Roquefort. Roquefort is French sheep milk blue cheese and since I’m not a fan of any blue cheeses, I found the taste to be a little strong. Mixed with foie, which also has a strong taste, but one that I enjoy, made this flauta full of strong flavours. I thought it was just average. After eating half of it, I didn’t really want any more of it. Since foie’s texture is very soft and almost slimy, it’s not exactly the most appealing or texturally satisfying food. Decent to share, but probably wouldn’t order this again.

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Veal with Pepper

The Veal with Pepper is quite a good montadito, and one that I have ordered again. However, it’s quite pricey as it is around 3 euros for one. The veal is grilled and seasoned to perfection and is extremely tender. On top, it has a padron pepper, which are typical Spanish peppers that are smaller in size. They are actually very mild in spice, and only very few are spicy. The one here was very mild and didn’t even have much pepper taste to it. The Spanish, however, enjoy just eating these peppers as tapas. It added a nice grilled flavour to this montadito.

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And that was our meal for two! Absolutely filling and at a decent price. Remember to grab a bar seat again to see what daily montaditos they offer.

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And to finish off, here is a picture of the Magic Fountain in Barcelona. It’s situated right in front of the art museum at Plaza Espanya and is a must see. Beautiful colours and display of water accompanied with music.

El Vaso de Oro – Barcelona

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My sister had met up with her coworker and wife, and they had asked me where to eat… We were near Barcelonetta, and I was not very familiar with the restaurants in that area. A quick search on Tripadvisor suggested us to go to to El Vaso de Oro. It’s extremely close to the Barcelonetta metro station, but when we got there, we questioned if we were at the right place. From the outside, the wooden signage makes it look like an old pub. Peeking in, you’ll see a line of chairs against the bar. Locals all having some beer and tapas. Along the wall, you’ll see a few tables with no chairs. But don’t make that be the reason you leave, because it offers some of the best food! You’re going to have to squeeze yourself here to even find a spot to stand… Yup, we ended up standing by one of the bar stools, because there was no room at the long bar table. Worth it though!

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We had no idea what to order and with the menu being all in Catalan, it was quite difficult for me to understand anything. Service isn’t amazing or anything because it’s extremely busy in here, but this old Spanish man who worked behind the bar was really nice and would pop by to help us out. We asked what he would recommend, and with his limited English abilities and some finger pointing, he ordered several dishes for us to share. We got some complementary free baguettes, which were typical. Then, we got some Iberian Ham Croquettes. We also got some Iberian Ham Montaditos. Very typical Spanish tapas. I really enjoyed the croquettes since they are a little cheesy with the hint of ham. The Iberian Ham Montaditos were just alright. I’ve learned that I’m not a huge fan of Iberian Ham. I find it very strong in the pig flavour, and it’s not something I’m entirely into. It can also be quite tough sometimes and if there’s fat, then it’s very hard to chew. I’m more into the prosciutto type of ham, where it’s sliced very thing and easy to chew.

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Next up, we got the Russian Salad. This is also a typical Spanish tapa. It’s basically like a tuna salad. It came with these little baked pieces of bread, so they were super crunchy. The only thing was there was more salad than the bread, so you would get so much leftover salad to eat on its own. Putting the salad on the bread was so much better because you get a crunch as well. I would recommend getting this salad!

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Lastly, we got the Steak, which is what this cerverceria is famous for! Honestly, I didn’t get how good steak could be when I was reading the reviews. In fact, the steak isn’t that cheap either, and you only get around 8 pieces. But holy….these were heavenly. It’s cooked to perfection at medium rare and were the most tender pieces of steak I’ve ever had. They come already cut into cubes so it’s easy to eat, and there isn’t too much seasoning or what, but the flavour of meet just bursts in your mouth. Super juicy and is a must order! They also have steak with foie, but our friends were not big fans of foie. I could only imagine how great that would taste. We ended up ordering another plate of this steak because it was so good. I could seriously just come here to have a plate of this to myself and being fully satisfied.

Overall, extremely satisfied with El Vaso de Oro. We almost came back here another time because we were craving the steak so much. Even my Spanish professor recommended this spot for good steak. Super local place where you’ll here Spanish or Catalan only. I don’t think I saw any tourists when I went! It’s not the cheapest place to get tapas, but I think the quality of food makes it worthy. Good place to just grab a snack, but maybe not get full.

Alta Galicia – Barcelona

When U and her dad arrived, I joined them for meals quite often as I I didn’t know my way around the city much. One night, we wandered near our neighbourhood to look for dinner. Past the park near Clot, there is a street full of restaurants and cafes. Around dinner time, the waiters try to lure you into eating at their restaurant. Many also have outdoor seatings since the weather is perfect for eating out.

After walking for a while, trying to figure out where to eat, we ended up at Alta Galicia. We pretty much got lured into it by the guy saying they had the best seafood and paella, but honestly, every single restaurant says the same thing. It actually gets sort of annoying since they don’t leave you alone.

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Pa amb tomàquet

After placing our order, they brought over some baguettes with brushed tomato on top. It’s a famous tapa called Pa amb tomàquet that the Spanish eat and are often provided for free. I’m not a big fan of tomatoes, but these have just a light taste of tomatoes along with the seeds so it’s not too strong.

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Steamed Mussels

For my entree, I chose Steamed Mussels and they were just okay. The ones I had in Paris years ago were so much better and I still crave them today. I found that the mussels were not cleaned properly hence it still had that tough part on the side. It also had a bit of sand in it, so it was sort of gross. I would’ve also expected a type of sauce but it was literally just steamed mussels seasoned with salt. It also did not come with fries, which is often common.

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U got the Mussels in Marina Sauce which was much more flavoured, and her dad got a Tomato Soup.

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Calamari

We also got a plate of Calamari to share. They were tender and the batter wasn’t too thick. It would’ve been nice to have some sort of dip like an aioli sauce, but they didn’t. Just a slice of lemon.

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At the end of our dinner, they offered us shots. I didn’t know what to get so I left it to U’s dad to choose. He got a lemon drop for himself, and for us girls, we had a shot that I forgot the name of. It had Bailey’s in it and some sort of chocolate flavouring. It wasn’t too strong and was much more creamy.

All in all, I wasn’t too impressed with the food at Alta Galicia. It seems to be a tourist trap in this street full of restaurants, although it’s not even an extremely popular street. One thing to remember is that they charge an extra 1.50 euros per dish if you sit outside. Pretty ridiculous and they don’t tell you that before you sit down. We had no idea until we opened the menu and saw the two price differences. This is often the case in Europe, so be careful. Also, it literally took 20 minutes for them to give us our bill. In Canada, I would’ve probably walked out already if it takes so long. I mean, isn’t collecting our money the most important thing for a restaurant?! Our restaurants usually try to rush you to pay the bill since they want you out so they can serve more customers! This slow efficiency is really getting to me, and it’s one I definitely cannot get used to. Another tip is that water costs money in most European countries, so I often end up drinking alcoholic drinks, since it costs around the same.