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Three modern Catalan restaurants to visit in Barcelona, Spain

These outstanding restaurants are showcasing traditional flavours in novel ways.

We wonder if it pains a Barcelona native to be asked where to find good tapas. After all, tapas didn’t originate in the capital of Spain’s Catalonia region any more than paella did. Sure, we love a good bikini – gooey toasted jamon and cheese sandwich – but you haven’t been to Barcelona until you’ve tasted authentic Catalan cooking.

Even so, it’s too wide a topic to go into because there are so many elements that distinguish Catalan cuisine from the rest of Spain.

Pa amb tomàquet (olive oil-drenched crisp toast smeared with crushed tomatoes that just can’t be replicated outside of Spain because of the tomatoes used); rice and stews cooked with the magical foundation of sofrito – slow-cooked tomatoes, garlic and onions – and accented with aioli and picada (their kind of pesto); and the happy marriage of mar y muntanya (aka surf ‘n’ turf) barely crack the surface of what Catalan cuisine is, so we won’t even try.

Suffice to say that anything outside of Catalonia is a pale shadow of the real thing. Even as Barcelona’s cosmopolitan nature demands that it caters to all styles of Spanish and international cuisine, there are enough restaurants around that still hold fast to the cooking traditions of old. What is new is how it’s presented – in trendy surroundings or modern plates – by chefs who are clearly in tune with the flavours of the past, but are determined to bring them into the present and future.

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  • Disfrutar

    DISFRUTAR

    The last time we were at Disfrutar, it had one Michelin star and was still a bit of an outlier in the international dining scene as people hadn’t quite wrapped their heads around this energetic, boundary pushing cuisine by a trio of chefs who will always be associated with their previous employer, elBulli. But while elBulli is now a memory and museum, chefs Oriol Castro, Eduard Xatruch and Mateu Casañas are very much in the present and cooking on their own terms. It’s best to drop the elBulli connection because what they do now is completely different – it’s playful but always real, its sense of wonder and entertainment rooted in the chefs’ Catalan heritage.

    With two Michelin stars and 18th position on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, Disfrutar has raised its game in its spacious, Mediterranean-inspired dining room that runs on the kind of clockwork precision required to deliver anywhere from 25 to 30 courses over a lunch that takes four hours but feels like just two, thanks to the pace, entertainment value and sheer deliciousness of your meal.

    From a welcome Americano cocktail of frozen shards of vermouth and Campari; a tin of ‘anchovies’ that turn out to be tender slices of pigeon breast in a visual trick; spring peas lined up with spherification pea ‘pearls’ and dehydrated bacon; a Salvador Dali-inspired ‘painting’ made of a glass-like sugar sheet; right down to a whisky cake enjoyed with a spray of whisky on your hands to sniff – every single dish has a link to Catalonian culinary history.

    But the chefs turn tradition on its head, creating an edible fairy tale that you just want to keep immersing yourself into.

    Carrer de Villarroel 163, 08036, Barcelona. Tel: +34-933486896. en.disfrutarbarcelona.com

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This article was originally published in The Business Times.

Photos: Jaime Ee/BT. Main photo by Francesc Guillamet