Barcelona pleases on all fronts

Restaurant Week is here! And so is the WEEKEND. A group of about half a dozen friends and I decided to beat the rainy New England blues by sampling the flavors of Iberia. We made our way to Barcelona under the thin raindrops of November to enter a warm, sophisticated antechamber where we were greeted by the welcoming staff.

The Restaurant Week menu at Barcelona is quite different from that of other places in New Haven. While they do provide the traditional prix-fixe option they have an alternative to accommodate their specialties: Spanish tapas. In order to better sample the wide ranging delicacies of Spain I chose the tapas option, four tapas at Barcelona is a meal unto itself.

Though I had over 30 options to choose from, I decided to go with the chorizo with sweet and sour figs, the crispy calamari, the grilled hanger steak and the herbed goat cheese and mushrooms. I felt that this would give me the widest range of different experiences, which is, after all, what Restaurant Week is all about.

The first of the tapas to arrive was the crispy calamari. Its texture was a mixture of rich, flaky breading and the tenderness of fresh seafood. The coup de grace: a spicy aioli sauce that Barcelona has mastered to perfection.

Next came the grilled hanger steak: a thin cut of meat with a truffle vinaigrette that gave it a distinctive taste. My only criticism being that I felt the truffle was a bit overwhelming.

The chorizo plate was everything that I expected. It was a cut of fine Spanish chorizo in a balsamic-sherry glaze that struck an exquisite balance between hardy Spanish meat and the subtle sweet flavor of fig. It was possibly my favorite dish of the multitude I sampled.

The meal came full circle with the last and final of the tapas: the goat cheese and mushrooms with balsamic. The fusion of goat cheese and mushroom made for a great finale to a meal as diverse as the country that inspired it.

My drink of choice was the Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse, a blonde German beer that strikes a divine equilibrium between a rich hoppy beer and something light. I decided against the cocktails or wine because after all, it was a school night.

The cuisine was spectacular and the staff incredibly attentive, attributes encountered in unison far less than one might think. This made for an experience at Barcelona I hope to relive in the very near future. It truly is an escape from the monotony of dining halls and serves as a paradigm of excellence in a town with a bounty of great culinary establishments.

Barcelona strikes the perfect balance for all opportunities and tastes; it has a wide selection of plates to satisfy all tastes. The environment would be agreeable for a loquacious dinner with a small group of friends, a run on the bar with acquaintances or an intimate dinner with a significant other. It retains a dual air of elegance and casualness that makes for great food, ambiance and two hours of conversation in the true nature of Spanish cuisine and culture.

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