dTapes – Tapas festival in Tarragona, round #3

Just when you think it cannot get any better it does… I present you Nebraska, a mini hamburger creation so good it will follow you  in your dreams.

Lovingly made at L’Orangerie du Marais this baby of perfection is perfectly cooked and seasoned and served a touch of brie, crispy bacon and (wait for this) caramelised apple cream and a pear purée all enclosed in to perfectly fresh perfectly warm and slightly toasted  mini ciabatta.  Glorious and straight in to the top 10!

Once you hit another high note it’s difficult to adjust to something more mundane, still, La Bola de Drac is a straighforward understated well seasoned and deep fried cruncy meatball, filled with caramelized onion with a delicious tomato sauce and a bit of bred. Quitessential tapas stuff, full of flavour and a 7 from the panel.

Next is an incredibly elaborate Dim Sum XDF courtesy of XDF Restaurant and a classic case of too many ingredients in one little dish. The dium Sum with its goat cheese filling picked a punch and had good contrast with the creamed calcots (the mithical mild onion which is grown only around here) but there overall feeling was that the 21 individual listed ingredients of the dish, which also included a mango, goat cheese, leeks and onions, just colluded in to one another without a lingering memory. Still, definitely worth coming back and see what else is on the menu!

We concluded our tapas tour of Central Tarragona at Rustic Restaurant with their creation called La Cochina de Marina. With their root in Salamanca, Rustic likes it’s suckling pigs and this was reflected in their showcase Tapa: A generous chunk of sweet roasted pork a with glazed crispy skin arrived with a sauce make of foie and tartar of caramelised pine nuts. We used the cunk of rustic bread to mop up the sauce which was delicious.  8+ from our very impressed mini panel.

Late afternoon we got down to the Serrallo ( the fishermen’s district of Tarragona) where our gastronomic tapas journey started at Bar Restaurant La Calera . Their signature tapa was Comete un par and consisted of two meatballs and a fat squid skewered together. It looked promising but the taste was bland and watery and the bread was a little stale. Big shame as it’s never nice to come out with a negative, but this was one. I have to add that the dish came with the best sparkling rose I have ever come across… a cheeky Vino De Aguja rosado by the quintessential (and sponsors of most of the wines on this festival Marina & Oriol)

The our flat expression was instantly dispelled by the amazing Pernileria Sidreria Serrano with their superb Delicia de Senglar,  a boar and potato stew packed with flavour and fragrant notes of rosemary.  A  beautiful full on Rioja  completed one of the best entry to this festival which deserves a full 10 and a return visit in the future for an in depth meal. Bravo!

More gastro-loveliness was on the way with a cracking tartare made of smoked salmon, a little sweet onion and pepper, lemon and mandarin juice and black caviar (an I suspect a touch of capers) courtesy of Xalot Restaurant with their Tartar Xalot al Sisale served with a chilled glass of cava. The perfect canapé and a resounding 8 from the panel.

This was followed by the Viera a l’Albarino at Restaurant Cal Joa, another of those little wonderful discoveries tapped away in one of the side streets. The dish was served in a scallop shell and consisted of a purée of scallop meat and potato with a hint of nutmeg, served with prawn sauce. The photo does not pay justice to this dish which came piping hot and packed with flavour. Another impressive 8!

Just when we thought it could not go better it did: if there was an Oscar for the most imaginatively made and cutting edge Tapa Tritapa la Botiga would be the winner! Not only that but it came with an  historical explanation which referred to how the Romans used the ‘galeta de pa’ (similar to the one presented on top of the most delicious prawn bouillabaisse) to mop up the dish which they would accompany with something sweet, here translate in to a delicate hazelnut marshmallow.  Oh, an there was also the matter of that prawn covered in dry romesco seasoning … wow! 9-10.

Adding to this nirvana, the next dish at which can only be described at the ultimate tuna melt and goes by the name of Trifasic de Tonyna by L’Onata restaurant. A fresh slice of romesco bred,  a spread of roasted vegetable jam and a seared, tender, still a bit raw on the inside bit of tuna.  Another close 10.

The reason you can probably pack quite a few tapas in between meals it because you have to walk from one eatery to the next. So to close the day and a bit woozy of fine food and excellent wines we got to Restaurant Balandra who had just the right dish to put us back on track: the Balandra. A small but perfectly formed serving of fresh mango chutney with a pickled gherkin, square chunks of smoked salmon, a drizzle of caviar, chilled wine and a slice of toasted bread. A very refreshing 7

We should have done this the other way round but who is to know; the last dish of the day came from El Raco’ del Pescador in the form of three different varieties of arros artistically presented in the shape of little boats (rice sausages with sails!), hence the name of the dish Les 3 Caravelles.  Now we know where to come for some of the best rice dishes in Tarragona; these were fabulous little concoction, bursting with flavour and swimming in home made romesco, garlic mayonnaise and a sweet peppery concoction.

More about El Raco del Pescador in the coming weeks and we’ll be back for a full meal!