Monday, October 13, 2008

Terrabacus

They say you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. Not always true. I knew what I had when I had Terrabacus, and now it’s gone, and I’m even more sad. Technically, it’s not gone. I’m sure it’s still right there on Muntaner by Diagonal, but for me, far away in Austin, it’s gone.

From the outside, I thought it was a wine store/wine bar. This is not completely untrue. It’s got smart, frosted glass sliding doors. On the inside, it’s all black and red, with leather bar stools and tall tables. There’s a small wine cellar that doesn’t even scratch at the surface of the wine list (one of those booklets that rotates on one binding, more like an elongated set of cards, comprised of many, many decks). Frankly, it’s too overwhelming for me to look at, I’ve often let others make the wine decisions for me.

When it comes to the food though, I know what I want. They do the ever-popular menú del día, but I think the best part is their a la carte menu because it’s another one of those miniature-dish places (think San Sebastian) where you can try a variety of foods, and find something to please everyone at the table.

I’ve been there many times over, enough to try most things on the menu, and I have a couple favorites. I remember the first time I went, I was impressed before our plates even arrived. First they brought out a modern square plate with sliced bread and a little tumbler of olive oil dotted with pink peppercorns. Completely divine. I had never given pink peppercorns a second thought, and here they were, releasing a little bit of sweetness with every bite of bread and oil. It’s little details like that that set Terrabacus apart. Well, that and the waitstaff. Living in Barcelona, you don’t come to expect service as a standout at eating and drinking establishments. You more get the feeling they’re looking at you going, “what are you doing here?” This is not the case at Terrabacus, and it could be attributed to my frequent visits, but I’m willing to take it either way. We became friends with a few waiters in particular, who always spent a little extra time talking to us, seeing how things were going, discussing food. What really convinced me that they paid more attention than your average bear was when I was walking down a busy Barcelona street and a man smiled, waved enthusiastically and said hi to me. I turned my head, confused, and then realized it was my waiter, and he was acknowledging me outside the restaurant. In other places, you barely get that inside a restaurant.

And to accompany the friendly faces, there’s the food. There are many dishes that we’ve gotten since the first time and haven’t skipped a beat since. The first is a martini glass of raw tuna, avocado, black sesame, and topped off with a bunch of sprouts. Tuna and avocado, not a new combination, but a winner. And you feel good after you eat it, nothing too heavy—that’s for the next plate.Little rolls of bacon and cheese. The bacon’s crispy and fatty (naturally) and the cheese oozes as you bite into it. Once again, this one’s not rocket science, but there’s a reason people keep ordering it. And although these some of their dishes might not be new, it’s the presentation that gives it personality, and the little dabs of sauces, some sweet and mango based, some vinegar and sour, all coming together in the end. The reason I don’t call these tapas is because they’re not typical tortilla de patatas or jamon or something like that. It’s all real food, just in miniature. So instead of getting a big bowl of pasta and being done with the night, you get a little plate of four purses of pear filled pasta in a creamy goat cheese sauce, plus all the other little plates you want. These purses are reminiscent of I Quattro Leoni in Florence, who has a very similar, equally as rich pasta. These have been a staple since the first trip to Terrabacus. So after you have your little dish of pasta, you then get a little plate of my favorite salad of life. And I’m not faking it saying “I love salad” because you’re supposed to because they’re good for you. This really is the best salad there is. There’s foie in it. And carpaccio. And little crunchy bits of puffed rice. And of course greens. Yall, it don’t get any better than that. If this is being healthy, I’m all for it. And because you’re so healthy with your salads and smaller-than-normal rations, you might then get a dish of a late-discovered gem: won-ton pasta ravioli, stuffed with mushrooms and served in sauce of foie and truffle oil. You’re probably getting a heart attack just reading this, but there are only three little ravioli, and don’t be turned off but the ‘won-ton’ description. I think that was my problem and the reason for the delayed ordering, which was a mistake. I was picturing something like a mixture between an egg-roll and ravioli, or some sort of deep-fried pasta concoction, which this was not. Instead, it was rich, decadent, amazing pasta. Then, you might get a surprise from the kitchen (if you’re as friendly with the staff as we are). I can’t take credit for this one, but one of my friends had talked to them on a prior visit, urging them to make their own take on patatas bravas (inspired by Taverna’s originality), and on this next visit as we were dining together, we were presented with a martini glass containing a potato puree, layered with a spicy mayonnaise, orangey in color, and sprinkled with a few cubes of fried potato. Ah the perks of being in good with the ones who count. I think we were sort of taste-testers, and I’m wondering if they’ve since put it on the menu. There are plenty more tiny delights at Terrabacus, but I’m going to move onto desserts, because they deserver a bit of space too. They have a chocolate coulant, which, unless you cook it too long, is at the top of my list. And they don’t cook it too long here. It’s cakey on the outside and runny batter on the inside. It pairs nicely with a glass of Pedro Ximenez, or another dessert wine offered on the menu. One dessert that really surprised me was Kingston cocoa ice cream with confit of orange. I didn’t order it, but tried someone else’s and it was really intense chocolate. I wasn’t expecting that, but I really liked it. I normally reserve my ice cream for my few choice gelaterias, but this was delicious, as rich as a truffle. The pink peppercorns made a tiny appearance in this dessert too. If you get a menú del día, there’s the option of cheese for dessert. And after having been in Spain, and now back in America, you really appreciate the Europeans for their cheese. Like I said, I knew what I had, and now I don’t have it (although I can get some of that cheese here, but not all, and definitely not Terrabacus).

4 comments:

d anything said...

Well that has made me all hungry now. Great photo of the rollitos. But what about the burger? The iberico, beef and foie burger. The world's greatest burger. That is an essential part of Terrabacus too.

Steve said...

Sadly the waiting staff are abandoning ship and I think the chef's leaving too. You saw it at it's best.

Anonymous said...

Hi Steve ,

don't worry,I won't go anywhere,

but I certainly appreciate your opinion.

Kind regards

Carlos Ortiz,
chef

Steve said...

Ah, I got the impression on my last visit (very good, incidentally) that many of the service staff were about to leave and I must have misunderstood that you were going too. If you are staying and the standard of service remains as it was then I'll definitely be back!