The three week gastronomic journey that is Tarragona’s dTapes food festival, is coming to an end and our last port of call is the Serrallo, the quintessential fishermen quarter and home to some of the most gutsiest food in town.
Armed with our well fingered dTapas passport/guide we start at L’Arrosseria, the first port of call when you enter the Serrallo. The Montat de Paella de Marisc is a little portion of seafood paella garnished with a local tasty prawn and served with a crispy local white.
Next is Cidreria Donosti with a great sweet and sour Pincho combination, crunchy vegetables with a touch of gherkin topped with a smoked mackerel fillet. A treat for a hot Friday afternoon.
The Ancora Marisqueria is a Serrallo landmark, walk in and you see trays upon trays of honest Serrallo seafood lining up the long counter. The scene is set and here is the tapa: a baby fava bean and tiny calamari that melt in your mouth accompanied by a slice of bread topped by Iberico ham. This is the season for fava beans and it takes hours to make saltejat: the result is a deep rich lingering flavor which you want to wrap up and take home. One of the best this year.
Contrasting with the previous non nonsense approach is L’Anap Tapes with their xurros a la marinera, essentially calamari flavored churros accompanied by a dip of squid ink sauce, is one of the most unusual offering this year. Great on presentation.
Equally a bit off key this year is Restaurant la Botiga with its Arambesco la Botiga , rice with Romesco and Tarragona prawn mousse, which felt a bit tired and lacked a punch.
We finished this session with the Tris de textures gelades at Raffa Gelati, a refreshing concoction of it’s signature hazelnut ice cream, a serving of yogurt ice cream topped with blueberries and raspberries preserve and a beautifully presented little biscuit ice cream on a lolly dipped in dark chocolate and topped with nuts.
Back next evening, we made our way in to the narrow alley that is the Serrallo, the fishermen quarter, an area completely removed from its glossy restaurant front. It took a bit of orientations (there are only three parallel dissecting streets) but we eventually found La Xarxa which was almost concealed had it not bee for the dTapes sign flapping in the wind.
La Xarxa feels more like a workers caf /but they do good grub as their dTapes entry shows: a fine, infinitely tender mini squids topped with a nutty Romesco sauce and beans with a punchy alloli (for the uninitiated this is the heavy duty mayonnaise made with garlic) and a spring of dill. Served with the house white and very nourishing.
The next dish is served by Restaurant Cal Joan, a local traditional restaurants where one would go for their equivalent “Sunday roast”, the Tapa is called Foc del Serrallo (fire of the Serrallo): perfectly executed Patata Bravas served with a small fresh tail for Monkfish and topped with a spicy romesco variation. Honestly good.
Just around the corner is Restaurant Balandra and their signature tapa is Suquet de Gamba (prawn stew). an tasty marinated and grilled local red prawn served with a fresh potato puree, a drizzle of the blitzed stew, caramelized onions and a little grilled pebrot. Morish stuff!
Following Balandra is Restaurant Xalot which last year won the coveted golden fork for the best entry to dTapes. This year it’s a Darnet de Tonyina, cunks of cooked tuna served in a lip smacking oriental orange sauce. We tried to guess the ingredients (and also quizzed the waiter) and think it’s basically, sweet orange juice, oil, black and white sesame, touch of spring onion, touch of rosemary and thyme. Fresh, clean and surprising notes.
The very busy L’Onata Restaurant with it’s waiters trying to figure out how to compe with serving a sudden surge of 300 people at once had another great Tapa up its sleve: Pop amb perles del Serrallo; confort food had suddenly just taken a new dimension. A silky smooth potato pure infused with shiitake mushroom, topped but the tenderest pieces of marinated octopus and a serving of little pearls which created mini Romesco explosions in your month. So good I only remember to take a picture once started, hence the messy look. The overall consensus withing our group was that this was the best entry for the Serrallo this year.
Last one for the dTapes 2013 is the “Balandra” de Rapinyol de Tarragona, a sweet potato stew served with the perfect Monkfish tail and the freshest piece of bread of the whole dTapes circuit. Absolutely delicious and it came, befittingly, with a glass of local Torello cava to toast the final morsel of dTapes 2013.