With me running around, trying to set up things for my upcoming exhibition, Catalonia Castellers, I have pangs of homesickness for Barcelona now and then. There are a lot of things I love about Barcelona and of course that includes its food. Last Wednesday was one day where the craving was bad. Lately, there have been a surge of Spanish restaurants and you could say I have been in the sidelines watching for reviews as they go by their first months. Next to Filipino food, I find I am quite picky when it comes to Spanish cuisine, let alone Barcelona signature dishes. I am always with hope that it would give me even just a bit of the pleasant memory similar to what I get when I go to Barcelona. I know it is a tall order to fill but I still hope. Hopeless optimist, I can sometimes be. Last Wednesday, the craving was so great I went and tried Carmen.
I was able to drive up to Carmen 15 minutes before 5pm. I have read that tables can run short during peak hours, I thought I’d give them a try when they just opened. Walking up to it, I noticed that the chairs were still upside down on top of the tables. I double-checked their Facebook page and I did not make a mistake that it says they open by 5pm. I was restraining myself from having a tantrum and politely informed them of their Facebook typo error (I checked again and they corrected it already) and I went on my way for a food event. Somehow when the event was done, I still could not shake the craving. I just had to have tapas. So I tried once again. Happily as it was almost 10pm, the place had a lot of options when it comes to tables. My EyeCandyTO partner, Abe Wornovitzky, and I did not have to wait. And I finally ended up eating tapas that night.
Walking deeper into the restaurant, I can now understand how Carmen would be trending. The place does have that old world feel without going overboard. From the bar to the front all the way to the dining area at the back was a good gamut of contemporary and traditional in one space. Mix of hardwood, bold Spanish colors and accessories made up the space. One vintage mural by the kitchen window added that extra oomph to its ambiance. Finally settling on our table, I went through their tapas menu. Much as I have good memories of paella, it would take 45 minutes to have one. It was too late to have one. So tapas it was.
Abe and I made an agreement for Patatas Bravas (but of course!), Alcachofas Fritas (fried artichokes with aioli), Tomate Verde frito con Queso Feta, Maíz y Pimientos (Layered fried green tomatoes, feta, red pepper corn chutney), Salmon Antoni Gaudi. The Patatas Bravas came in first and the other three dishes came in a fast sequence. It was a plus that Carmen’s tapas were generous. Before I tasted my first potato, I contemplated how this very thing makes or breaks it for me. I tend to like it only with aioli, same way as I get it in Barcelona. Carmen has brava sauce on it and I was glad it didn’t take away from the general taste I was looking for. Their choice of potatoes was the right kind, sweet and mushy on the inside but crisp on the outside. Together with the meld of aioli and brava sauce, it definitely worked for me. Another noteworthy dish was the fried artichokes. There was a good balance of savoury, crisp and a hint of tartness to it that was pleasing. I could easily finish the plate by myself. The other two dishes were not my typical tapas of choice yet it did pacify. Abe’s favorites were the Tomate Verde Frito and the Salmon Antoni Gaudi. Of all the four, I think the fried artichokes took first place.
My craving for tapas was pacified for the night but I know that it would eventually come back soon. I now know that I can come to Carmen to quiet down the cravings. Now if Carmen can squeeze in Fideos Negros in, I would definitely be back more often. Please, pretty please?