Our final round up of the dTapes Festival in Tarragona, one of the best gastronomical experiences to be had this part of the woods. We started in the Part Alta with one of the most memorable entries, the beautifully named Visca La Terra! (long live the Earth) created by El Llagut Taverna Marinera, one of the top restaurant in town.
Balanced on a very catalan coca (that is a the flat bread which here is used in all sweet and savoury manners) was a tender baby octopus, stewed in a rich wine sauce, matched with a slice of longanissa sausage and garnished with a spring of herbs which included dill. The dill gave the dish a surprise twist which just shows that sometime just a little touch can transform something standard (well, this was far from standard) in to a memorable meal. El Llagut had also found the perfect wine to match all this, a deep rich and mineral Clos Montblanc Xipella Negre. We all agreed that the dish deserved a divine 10+
Next was the unassuming little eatery called Deu Mes U with a colourful little dish called Pascualet made from the loin cut of Iberian pork although this was somehow hard to tell – it came with garnished dollops or potato purée and garlic mayonnaise and grated cheese on top. The verdict was a not too sure 7 although it did pack a nice little punch in the tastebuds department.
We bimbeld back to Placa de la Font headed to Piscolabis where, after a bit of wait, we were presented with Bacalla’ al Miro‘, a splendid medallion of juicy and tender bacalao surrounded by a culis of romesco and vermout. This was excellent and made us wonder why this was the only one of the few fish entry of the whole competition. One of the best and a deserved 8-9
After a deserved siesta we got back on our feet following the direction on the map to La Taula Rodonda. Their entry was called Marina & Oriol after one of the biggest wine suppliers of the area, and consisted of a delicious combination of rice and snails ‘arancino ‘ served with tender rabbit and a dash of fresh aioli. The dish was a homage to everything Catalan and the result was highly palatable combination which deserves a resounding 8-9 and a further visit in the next few weeks.
Next was the perfectly executed Tecla 60 mini hamburger of foie at Tecla 60 Restaurant which is an apt choice for an eatery which looks vaguely like a diner. The dish came with a glass of vermouth but, after La Taula Rodonda and the amazing mini burger at L’Orangerie du Marais a few days earlier, it all felt a bit unadventurous and just got a 6-7.
And now the much talked about Explosio’ de Foie at Restaurant Palau del Baro’ which everyone seems to vote as their favourite. The dish is foie and truffle dipped in melted 70% pure cocoa chocolate, sprinkled with toasted nuts and edible gold. It sits on a crunchy toast and you are supposed to eat it all in one go and then wait for the explosion of flavour in your mouth. So did it explode? It kind of did but the overwhelming mix only resulted in what can be described as a suicide by salted chocolate, all the other ingredient lost . But one must salute the inventiveness of the idea so this still gets a 7.
Back in Placa de la Font we went for the diminutive in everything El Salmo’ dels Tartars, basically a tartar of salmon which lost heavily in comparison with the far more generous and elaborate version at Xaloc – you just can’t beat the masters at the Serallo! Hence a 5.
Next was the funky Quattos Cafe with their Quattropies, Pig’s trotters stuffed with foie gras and mushrooms. Beautifully presented there was however a bit of a stumbling block, similar to the one encountered while sampling the tripe dish a few days earlier… perhaps once we are reminded that an animal is not a hamburger and that what we are eating was once happily kicking around the Iberian hinterland a feeling of guilt sets in… but as pig trotters go this was a valiant effort (forget about that piece of cartilage) and that spring of watercress added a nice edge and a deserved an 7-8.
By the time we got to the L’ Auriga Restaurant we were all in a bit in a party mode having reached the finishing line of this tapas circuit extravaganza. And what better way to end it all with Ostres I Cava, Oyster from the delta in a Gin Sour mousse married to fine glass of Vintage Cava. Fresh, clean, zesty and dry it was the perfect oyster served with panache by the grinning chef ( just noticed, I am sounding more and more like Rick Stein).
So here it is to dTapes, a brilliant foody idea and a great experience thanks to the impressive gastronomic credentials of Tarragona’s eateries.