June 18, 2006

Mamacafe – Barcelona, Spain

Hola! I recently returned from a fabulous trip to Barcelona, Spain. If you have not already been there, I definitely recommend that you visit it. The city is absolutely beautiful, and to make it even better, Barcelona sits right on the Mediterranean Sea so you can hang out at the beach as well.

The first half of my trip I was on my own. So what does a girl do when on her own in a city like Barcelona? Treat myself to a lovely meal at a place where I can just linger for hours.

For this part of the trip, I was staying on Las Ramblas, so I wanted a restaurant that was located in the Barri Gotic or El Raval areas (the neighborhoods just east and west of this main street). My handy-dandy Rough Guides book (I never travel without one of these) suggested the restaurant, Mamacafe; which was conveniently located a few blocks west of my hotel.

Before I start talking about the restaurant, let me explain a couple things. In Spain they eat dinner late—very late. Typically, restaurants serve food 1-4pm and 8-11pm. Although the restaurants begin serving food at 8pm, most Spaniards do not begin filling up the places until at least 9pm. Well, this time schedule was not going to work for Kristin who was quite hungry from her arduous day of meandering the alleys of the Barri Gotic and sunbathing at the beach while sipping sangria. It was tough.

In between these meal times, tapas is the main choice for food. Not so bad. The tapas is just like what you see here in New York, and I assume everywhere else as well. For those of you not familiar with tapas, it is basically little dishes to nibble on. The idea is that you order a selection of tapas dishes to make a complete meal or order a single dish to snack on.

I found that in Spain, the tapas tends to be more of a bar thing, but not a grubby bar thing. I would walk around and pass by nice looking wine bars/cafes that had tapas sitting along the bar counter. It is a lovely way to have a nibble. According to my guide book, and also from what I found walking around, the best tapas bars are in the southern most part of the Barri Gotic, near the port area (but be careful because this area can be a bit sketchy as night).

Evidently each tapas bar has their specialties and the remaining items can sometimes lack in quality. Therefore, the locals tend to go from tapas bar to tapas bar to nibble on the bar’s specialty along with a drink. Things could be worse.

Another interesting note about the Spanish way of dining is that at lunchtime the cafes have the menu del dia option. This is basically a three course menu for a very reasonable price. The menu del dia’s I looked at were typically only about 8 Euros, and these were in the tourist areas. Overall, I found that the food and drinks were very reasonably priced even given the exchange rate (1 Euro = $1.28).

Okay, back to Mamacafe. So like the rest of Spain, Mamacafe did not begin serving their dinner menu until 8pm. I arrived around 6:30-7pm. Although Mamacafe is not a tapas bar, like many other restaurants, they serve a few tapas dishes in between meals. So I sat down at the best table in the house and ordered their specialty tapas dish along with a glass of wine. Here I just lingered enjoying my dish while reading a book.

Their specialty tapas dish is Crunchy Ravioli with Brie and Candied Onion (3.50 Euros). Wow, this was good. The ravioli pastry is made from filo dough, hence the crunchy aspect. As the name suggests, the filo dough is stuffed with brie cheese and caramelized onion. The ravioli is then served along with some tomato puree and very fresh pesto. All together these flavors and textures were excellent. I was in total awe.



Finally 8pm rolled around and the waitress handed out the dinner menus to me and the other American couple who were also not used to eating so late. As I decided upon my evening’s dishes, the waitress brought over some hummus served with toasted baguette slices. The hummus was served traditionally with some olive oil drizzled over it along with a little sprinkle of smoky paprika. I was very pleased with this complimentary dish.



For my appetizer I ordered an Eggplant with Roasted Red Pepper and Candied Onion dish. Again, this dish was really good. On top of the pepper was some sort of a mellow cheese (it reminded me of the cheese you traditionally find in Mexico served on dishes) and vegetable gravy. What really made it so great is the freshness of the ingredients, which is what I had read makes this restaurant so good.

My entrée was a tuna steak with an apple and mango chutney. Drizzled on top was a little soy sauce to add a nice contrast to the sweetness of the chutney. This was not my favorite of the dishes (the ravioli would be my favorite), but I appreciated the combination of the flavors. Also, each of the ingredients were just so fresh.

As for the atmosphere, it is a bit funky-casual. I liked it because it has a nice trendy feel but without an ounce of pretension. The wait staff were all super friendly to this American and never made me feel rushed. They welcome the fact that I was stationing myself at their restaurant for a few hours to relax, read, and treat myself to a nice dinner.

I was also very pleased with the price. Including my tapas dish, complimentary hummus, appetizer, entree, and two glasses of wine, my bill was 33 Euros. Also, in Spain tips tend to be only 5% so that only added about 1.50 Euros to the bill. I was very pleased.

As you can see, I loved this restaurant and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is in Barcelona. Note though that Mamacafe does not serve traditional Spanish food, so do not go here if that is what you are looking for. However, if you want just a really good dinner made with super fresh ingredients, then you should try this restaurant.

Mamacafe, c/del Dr Joaquim Dou 10, 933 012 940

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1 Comments:

Blogger Manuel said...

I liked the flavors of Barcelona. From the tapas bars to the churros stands, to the wine and beer, I found that the local food is excellent.
I loved the seafood, the paella, the pulpo and wine, even the beer is surprisingly good for a Med country. Estrella Damm didn't seem the slightest bit gassy or sweet. It is a fabulous city, filled with amazing Gaudi architecture, great restaurants, a pretty harbor and good shopping and good choice of many hotels in Barcelona
This is definitely a city to remember, a city to enjoy and a city to discover.
Thanks for nice article.

11:25 AM  

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