Thursday, April 24, 2008


One of the first restaurants that I knew I had to eat in in Barcelona was Dolso. Sounds like dulce, right? Well, it is. It’s a dessert restaurant, specializing in little fluffy delights, but a bit on the swanky, trendy side. Case 1: in the window display it has test tubes of different colored liquids, I’m not really sure if they’re supposed to be syrups or just pretty. Case 2: they make their own marshmallows, colorful, pink ones. Case 3: they write their menu on a mirror. But I’m not calling it trendy in the bad-sense of the word, it’s just not your down-home bakery. It’s actually much, much more. At first glance you read Dolso, go in and look at the tiny glass display case around the tables and chairs, and you think mmmmm, good desserts. But then you look around you at the people eating, and the magret de pato listed on the menu, and you realize it’s not just dessert. There’s food there too. This must be investigated further, you think. And it was. Well, it has been, numerous times. There’s this lunchtime institution in Spain called the menú del día, which is your (usually) reasonably priced, fixed menu, only available at lunch. It includes a starter, a main, dessert, bread, and a glass of wine. It can range anywhere from 7 to 25 euros, and of course sometimes more, depending on where you go. On the lower end of the spectrum are your typical, common bars/restaurants that will have soup or ‘ensalada rusa’ (a salad covered with mayonnaise but that does not contain any greens, as far as I can tell), or most of the other characteristic plates that you see sometimes in glass counters all day long at the same place. For mains it might be something like fish or sausage, and these places are fine, you mainly pay for what you get, but there are also places that do the peasant food just right, and you get hearty, tasty, fresh food for cheap. But all these places usually have one thing in common: bad desserts. It’s either generic, store bought ice cream, yogurt (served in it’s Danone container, mind you, and if you’re wondering, I do not consider this to be dessert) or macedonia de frutas (like Del Monte canned fruit). This is not good. In situations like these, you’re better off going without dessert.

This is the major appeal in Dolso: even if the menú at this aesthetically pleasing dessert restaurant is bad, you know the dessert’s going to be good. And upon further investigation, the menú was found not to be bad. At all. It was found to be quite delicious. See pictures below, and descriptions if you need convincing. I took pictures at two different meals so you could get a real flavor of what it’s like. At Dolso, for the menú del día they offer two starters, two mains, and only one dessert. They also have a light menu, which includes juice of the day, a larger portion of the starter, and of course, dessert. I’ve only been able to give up a main once to get the light menu, but their salads are so dang good here, I don’t know, must be something in the dressing that’s addictive, that the light menu is pretty good too if you’re not feeling extremely hungry. Oh, and one of my favorite touches that comes on many plates is a fresh, green, herb oil (like a pesto) that perfectly dots the plate.

So here goes the first meal. The starters were a salad with fresh cheese and corn, with their secret, wonder of a dressing and a squash soup. Both of the great quality that we expect from Dolso, a perfectly crisp an balanced salad and creamy, hearty soup.

Mains were entrecote with fries, pretty standard but good, and dorada with quinoa and a tiny salad, and you’ll notice a hefty portion of pesto oil, which never hurts. These were both also very good and up to our Dolso standards.Dessert was a brownie with a banana cream, which doesn’t normally sound great to me (something about the banana cream), but ended up pretty good. My constant lunch partner loves the desserts because there’s usually a sprinkling of crunchy, salty cookie like crumbs, or perhaps brownie crumbs thrown over the top that bring a nice bit of salt to the creamy desserts.

The next meal didn’t have a soup for a starter, which was irregular. There’s normally a soup and a salad and I’m just fine with the consistency because they do it well. The starters at this meal were a ham tart with tomato marmalade and a salad that was supposed to have white asparagus, but they ran out, so it only had tomatoes and sunflower seeds. These were ok, but I went for the tart, which was more eggy than anything else, and the salad was lacking a bit, as they ran out of one of the main ingredients. The mains were confit of duck with ratatouille and potatoes dauphine, and a crusted grouper, which we didn’t get so I didn’t know how it was, but the duck was a big hit. The first time I came to Dolso I had duck, which I don’t normally eat, or order out, but was amazed, it was so tender and perfectly cooked, moist, and all that other good stuff. Finally, the dessert was another sort of cream/mousse, that was ok, but one thing I’ve noticed since we started going: the desserts on the menú del día are getting smaller. They still have that glass display case of pyramids and semi-circles of impressive desserts, but those have never been included in the menu, and the ones that are served as part are shrinking. Other than the duck, I was a little disappointed with the tart, it was nothing special. Third Meal (I actually had this all written up with only the first two meals, but decided I needed a third one to post also, so I took one for the team and went to Dolso again last week…)
Starters were a leek tart (I do love how their tarts are always accompanied by a little salad) and a salad with apples and walnuts, but I hate to say that the salad was a let down, I’m convinced it didn’t have that dressing I love so much. The mains were emperador (which I didn’t discover until much after the fact meant swordfish) with carrot puree, quinoa, and cauliflower. I went for this one, and it was good, they tend to use quinoa a lot and I have become a huge fan, and the presentation is always great, but the swordfish was a bit overcooked in my opinion. I was actually much more taken with the other option, the burger. I know, a burger. Not a greasy American burger with cheese slathered between two buns (I might not be opposed to that, how I miss those…), but a patty of ground beef, cooked perfectly and served over a bed of spelt or faro, or some grain not identified, but like little bits of pasta, and all drizzled with that great basil oil/pesto sauce I was talking about. This was really great and it sounds so humble as a burger. The dessert was better than the last one we had had, it was a brownie with some lemon cream and couple little fruits. I’m always in the mood for a brownie. I’m not done yet though, you didn’t think I’d tell you all about a dessert restaurant and not get to the heart of it? There have been a few exceptional ‘take-outs’ from Dolso, and they come from the famed glass case. There’s one thing I discovered upon eating them that you don’t get from just viewing them. They have this insane texture, I don’t know how they do it, it’s like an extremely light cake, that’s a bit spongy, but also fluffy, and seems to have the texture of a cloud (what I think of as a cloud). It’s not springy like elastic, but you can punch it in, and it’s so light and sort of melts in your mouth. I don’t know how else to describe it, or what exactly it is, but good. At first it was confusing and I wasn’t sure, but now I look forward to it. Here are some of the actual desserts (that Dolso is better known for). One is a fig based dessert, and the other, a more citrusy one, though I can’t remember exactly. I'm sorry there's no cross section of these...I might just have to stroll down to Dolso and get myself a cake strictly for foodblogging purposes. Next is another dessert, but not one of their intriguing cakes, this is like a chocolate and hazelnut (my two best friends) mousse and cream combination. Obviously very happy with this one. And it came topped with a brownie and some candied hazelnuts. So, for the most part people (I might be the leader of this group) think that Spain does not have good desserts. In this case, I would show them the way to Dolso, and get them lunch while at it.

C/ Valencia 227

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Dolso is great. Elegant set meals, and very well-constructed desserts. They appreciate the value of a bit of salty stuff in your pud too. Which is good.