Tapas at the circus: Get a ticket for Tickets!

Since I couldn’t make it to Ferran Adrià’s El Bulli back then, a visit at his tapas-bar Tickets was a must for my stay in Barcelona. I love the concept of tapas (of course, they stole it from the Greek mezedes….) and so I was very thrilled what a culinary genius like Adrià would make of this traditional way of enjoying many different flavors in small portions.

Together with our friends Babsi and Jan we had reserved a table two months in advance through the BCN50 website. It was a bit of a run, sitting at midnight in front of the computer, but we got our table 🙂 Tickets is situated in a vibrant area of Barcelona with many nice restaurants and bars around, just round the corner of Pakta. You see the windows from far away:

Outside

Outside

The entrance already promises what you will get: A circus of flavors, a joyful and uncomplicated evening. Since we were one hour too early the lady at the door recommeded us to have a drink at the Xixbar around the block to pass the waiting time. So we did an had an amazing G&T there – don’t miss it!

Entrance

Entrance

The inside holds what the outside promises: Entering Tickets you dive into another world, a colorful and loud circus. Everything you dreamt of as a child: Lights, colors, sugarcandy and smiles everywhere. At first it is a bit overwhelming, but you quickly get used to the atmosphere and this incredibly chilled mood full of curiosity.

Inside

Inside

Life is a circus

Life is a circus

After we sat down our waitress introduced herself and brought us the menue. You can order single dishes or have a surprise menue of about 2 dozen dishes, for which you can exclude certain ingredients or have a specific dish included. We went for the surprise menue and ordered a bottle of Cava as pairing. All through the evening the service was swift, very friendly and helpful. Since Tickets is a project by Ferran Adrià we were expecting a lot of molecular tricks…and were positively disappointed.

At Tickets you eat with tweezers, which at first is strange but then becomes more and more natural. Since you are mostly served smal bits and bites, the tweezers are the perfect tool for grabbing them…

We started with 4 very small dishes:

Sangria Infused Water Melon, Pistaccios, Tempura Peanuts, Nori and Sesame Cracker

Sangria Infused Water Melon, Pistaccios, Tempura Peanuts, Nori and Sesame Cracker

A very nice start into the evening: The water melon was amazing, refreshing and full of fruityness. The temura peanut reminded me of Kelly’s Snips – in the good way. The crackers were a very nice contrast in taste and texture, offering the salty umami notes of the seaweed. The peanuts…well peanuts, no false bottom here.

Seaweed Tempura with Seaweed Sauce

Seaweed Tempura with Seaweed Sauce

Very nice one: The seaweed tempura tasted perfectly fresh with the salty twist of the ocean, offering a thrilling contrast between the crunchy crust and the soft seaweed. The seaweed sauce was wonderful – just look at this science-fiction like color 🙂

Two kinds of olives (ginger / lemon-garlic-herbs)

Two kinds of olives (ginger / lemon-garlic-herbs)

A signature dish from El Bulli: Spheric olives. Our waitress brought big olive jars in which the „olives“ were pickled. This evening they offered ginger and lemon-garlic-herbs. The experience was amazing: Sliding the olive in my mouth, it felt incredibly soft yet compact. Biting on it, a waxy gel full of taste filled my mouth. Wow!

Crispy bread with tomato and sardine

Crispy bread with tomato and sardine

One of the dishes that never gets old: A slice of crispy bread, mouth watering fruity tomatos and a fresh sardine fillet. So simple, so amazing.

Makkaroni made from basil water, parmesan infusion and cracker, pine seeds

Makkaroni made from basil water, parmesan infusion and cracker, pine seeds

One of the few dishes with a molecular twist this evening: The maccaroni were quite firm with a slight taste of basil, not really special. The parmesan infusion around it was very tasty though. I liked the idea of turning around this traditional dish, although it was not so convincing to me.

Menchego Airbag

Menchego Airbag

Manchego is a traditional part of Spanish tapas. Here it was presented as fluffy, light airbags. A beautiful contrast between your expectation of cheese-texture and the airy texture you actually get.

Foie gras, pickles, bread and sauce escabeche

Foie gras, pickles, bread and sauce escabeche

This one reminded us of Pakta the night before. The piece of foie gras with its intense fatty notes was lightened up by the fruity sauce escabeche. The pickles gave some acidity and spice, great dish!

Tuna/tomato/tobiko roe, cone with nori and marinated apple

Tuna/tomato/tobiko roe, cone with nori and marinated apple

This was a nice one too: From the looks you would expect something sweet. Actually it was a simple yet sophisticated starter: The tuna and the roe were supported by the intense fruityness of the perfectly ripe tomatos. The cone was very interesting too, adding umami notes and some acidity from the apple.

Razor clams with tomato

Razor clams with tomato

I love razor clams! These were perfectly fresh, went perfectly with the tomato sauce and were beautifully presented. Nothing more, nothing less.

Nordic style: Bread, beef, onion and vinegar powder

Nordic style: Bread, beef, onion and vinegar powder

One of my personal highlights: A very thin slice of rusk, topped with small pieces of raw beef and onion. The meat was so tender, just perfectly temperatured and very juicy. The vinegar powder added a very inspiring acidity to the dish! Wow!

Oysters and white sauce escabeche

Oysters and white sauce escabeche

Another déjà-vu from Pakta: Fresh oysters, sauce escabeche. Very nice, but very similar to the ones we had around the corner.

Avocado cannelono with crab

Avocado cannelono with crab

Avocado is always right: The thin slices surrounded a nice crab filling. Nice one, yet not really memorable.

Pak choi, cucumber, kimchi and pulpo

Pak choi, cucumber, kimchi and pulpo

One of the most amazing dishes this evening: The pulpo was wonderfully soft and tasty. The firm, spicy vegetables offered a beautiful contrast in taste and texture. Their green, spicy taste played well along with the grilled and full bodied notes of the pulpo.

Baby squids and alomonds

Baby squids and alomonds

Another favorite: I love baby squids so much! Toghether with an almond filling and some sauce escabeche they were just perfect.

Prawns with coffee powder, soy sauce with coffee, mushroom noodles with parmesan

Prawns with coffee powder, soy sauce with coffee, mushroom noodles with parmesan

Maybe the most sophisticated dish this evening: The perfectly fresh and tasty prawns were topped with some coffee powder. In the pot they served noodles made from mushrooms with parmesan, that added bosky notes and some umami spice to the equation. I liked the combination of the prawn’s sweetness with the coffee powder very much. Also the parallel texture of the prawns and the mushroom noodles (firm, yet waxy) was nice. The soy sauce with coffee brought – to my taste – too much coffee notes into play. Overall very nice, a combination I would have never thought of.

Pork chops marinated southern Spain style, potatos with beans and bacon

Pork chops marinated southern Spain style, potatos with beans and bacon

With this one everything was right: Fat, tasty, perfectly marinated meat. The vegetables absorbed this taste bomb just right.

Pork sandwich

Pork sandwich

I love sandwiches: This one was so great! Mouth-watering pork (cheek/neck) in a tasty, juicy, slightly sticky bun. I could have eaten 20 of them….

Strawberries with cream

Strawberries with cream

Strawberries and cream: Beautiful things don’t need to be complicated.

Our lovely waiter with the icea cream trolley

Our lovely waiter with the icea cream trolley

Caramelized ice cream

Caramelized ice cream

Ding-Ding – it’s the ice cream trolley: Our waitress came with an old-school trolley and served us ice cream. The cones were made of thin caramel, the ice cream on top was slightly caramelized with a blowtorch. Very nice, made with a lot of love for small details.

Hijacked Toblerone :-)

Hijacked Toblerone :-)

I love chocolate. Toblerone is a childhood memory, the angular chocolate in my moth and the pieces of caramel sticking to my teeth. Tickets hijacked this memory with a great premium interpretation of this legendary chocolate.

Waffles with chocolate

Waffles with chocolate

More chocolate please: My favorite dessert at Tickets: Soft cocoa waffles with an incredibly tasty chocolate cream and some chocolate flakes. Amazing!

Chocolate rocks

Chocolate rocks

Since we haven’t had enough, we ordered another dessert and got some chocolate rocks. Quite traditional and solid patisserie, fluffy and sweet. Very nice.

Our evening at Tickets was a great experience. It was far more traditional than I was awaiting: Most of the time it was about great products and the traditional tastes of Spain. You could feel the love for the Spanish tradition of eating, drinking and enjoying life together. I liked that very much. And what I’ve learned: Cava is just the perfect pairing for tapas. Since we had visited Pakta the day before, the dishes with sauce escabeche were not really new or surprising to us. But that’s not their fault 🙂 After all it was beautiful, very relaxed food experience, offering a wide variety of tastes. We (4 pax) paid 110 € per person, including tips and two bottles of cava – definetely a good deal if you look at the prices for tapas in other bars of barcelona. Afterwards we went for a nice cocktail at 41° – a relaxed way to end the evening in a cool atmosphere.

PS: It was nice to see that Ferran Adrià was enjoying his meal with a party of friends this evening in the restaurant. Always good to see the boss eating his own food…

Nikkei cuisine in Barcelona: Pakta

A food trip with our dear friends Babsi&Jan – sounds great and so it was 🙂 When they first told me to visit a Japanese/Peruvian restaurant in Barcelona I didn’t feel any need to go there. Sounds like a weird idea, but finally we all ended up in Pakta. Thanks god!

Pakta is a project by Ferran Adriá, mastermind of El Bulli. The story behind it’s cuisine is fascinating: Peru was the first country in Latin America to accept Japanese immigration. Immigrants brought also their cooking with them, but had to improvise when it came down to ingredients. The result was Nikkei kitchen – a blend of Peruvian and Japanese kitchen and food culture.

Pakta is a very plain restaurant, very minimalistic inside and outside. As often in Spain – even though you are in a high-end restaurant, it feels very modest and „normal“, a nice place for eating and chatting with friends. We were welcomed and brought to our places.

Pakta - Outside

Pakta – Outside

Pakta - Inside

Pakta – Inside

The offer two different menues, we went for the big one (logically called the „Machu-Picchu Menu“). The waitress told us the drill: The menue is a series of many, many small dishes, served in a certain rhythm. If you want to pause (e.g. for toilet) you should tell the personnel a bit in advance. Sounds weird, but worked quite well in fact. They have a wide variety of drinks, also some really nice sake-based cocktails and of course also special sake-pairings. Since none of us really loves sake from the bottom of his heart, we sticked to the excellent cocktails, which were a great pairing for the food.

We started the menu with a „Honzen Ryori“, a traditional way of serving Japanese food on a specially arranged platter.

Honzen Ryori

Honzen Ryori

The Honzen Ryori came with an amazing roll of toro (tuna belly) filled with spicy cream. Simple perfection here, the best tuna I’ve ever tasted. Then there was a very fresh razor clam with tamarind sauce and nori: extremely clean taste, with a nice balance of sweet and umami notes. The avocado tofu with yuzu and wasabi and some fish roe on top was beautiful, like a light, vegetal yogurt. The corn tuile was just ok (well….corn) but the cherry with kimchi was amazing. The chilled cherry exploded in your mouth and intensified the fruity and hot kimchi. Just great.

White asparagus with kimizu

White asparagus with kimizu

Up next we were served white asparagus with a special sauce. The dish reminded me a lot of the traditional asparagus with sauce hollandaise 🙂

Oyster with wasabi and iced apple

Oyster with wasabi and iced apple

A real star, since you hardly find so small Gillardeau oysters outside of France. Those were 4/5 – so really just one small bit. But just amazing, very concentrated and tender, extremely fresh with their characteristic nutty aftertaste. The iced apple was just too cold for me but added in combination with the wasabi a nice freshness to the relatively fat oysters.

Crispy yuca with huncaína sauce

Crispy yuca with huncaína sauce

Looks like fritters….and were fritters. Made of the palm tree they had a very nice texture (kind of like those peanut-snips). After all one my least favorite servings.

Mixed tiradito with "ají amarillo"

Mixed tiradito with „ají amarillo“

There we go. The nikkei cuisine has a very special and characteristic sauces: This dish came with „leche de tigre“. Raw sea bass, squid, razor clams and percebes/goose barnacles were served with this finger-licking good sauce. The fish was of AMAZING quality, I have never tasted so fresh and clean fish ever in my life. The sauce was great: fruity, spicy and very complex. Like a orange fruit of glass exploding on your palate. Not a single drop was left on the plate!

Nigiris

Nigiris

Nigiris! Yes! Flamed salmon, tuna and sea bass – all of them as good as a nigiri can be. Perfectly tempered rice, a well balanced portion of extremely fresh and tasty fish. My favorite was the salmon, since I really like the smoky aroma of the flaming in combination with the clean taste of salmon.

Nikkei Shimesaba

Nikkei Shimesaba

I love mackerel! This one was just perfectly marinated and cooked, in a green spicy green sauce made with chili, daikon and tomato. The spicyness was well balanced by the tomato on the side. A great dish, that actually tasted like it’s colors 🙂

Ceviche of "guanábana" fruit

Ceviche of „guanábana“ fruit

A Peruvian standard: Cevice. Supposedly the best Ceviche I will ever eat in my life and by the way a HUGE portion. Amazing raw seabass, perfectly marinated. Simple. And so delicious.

The Causas

The Causas

Under the title „causas“ (a famous style of Peruvian streetfood in various forms) we were served a squid maki causa with soy sauce and mentaiko, which was very nice: Very soft squid with nice salty and vegetal accents. The other one was a fried causa with chicken and huacatay, a fried chicken ball basically – very nice.

Fish "sanguchito" with "acevichada" mayonnaise

Fish „sanguchito“ with „acevichada“ mayonnaise

Outside of competition: This serving brought the idea of a sandwich to a whole new level. Seriously. Forget every fish sandwich you have ever eaten. This is the real deal. A crispy, waxy and incredibly render bun. Inside a small but extremely taste piece of fried fish. A mayonnaise that made love with your palate. And I think there was even salad. Wow. Just right.

Suckling pig gyoza

Suckling pig gyoza

What could come after this? Well, gyoza is a good competition. These were amazing, the dough was waxy as it should be with a rich filling of juicy, fatty suckling pig. And the sauce, usually the weakest point with gyoza….just great. Hot, fruity, yummy!

Nikkei soba tsuju

Nikkei soba tsuju

I love soba! These firm to the bite noodles are just great. The Japanese way to eat these by dipping them into soup or sauce is great. The surface of the noodles transports a lot of taste right to your taste buds. A perfect interpretation of this classic!

Warm ceviche with "rocoto"

Warm ceviche with „rocoto“

This warm ceviche with „rocoto“ orange color pepper was a nice variation to the cold ceviche before. The temperature alone made a significant difference in taste, though I liked the cold one better. But again, a dish with amazing product quality.

Grilled chicken "Anticucho"

Grilled chicken „Anticucho“

Up next was a more rustic dish, some skewers with grilled chicken and potatos. First of all the presentation was thrilling. The chicken itself was juicy, tasty, perfectly prepared and seasoned. The potato had the Peruvian sauce that came quite often during the menue. Although it appeared that much, you never got tired of it because the variation of the ground product made it always thrilling and interesting.

Fried rockfish with "escabeche" sauce

Fried rockfish with „escabeche“ sauce

I know something about fish. And this one was amazing, absolutely superior quality. The mullet was covered in panku and deep fried, of course perfectly to the point so that the meat was still juicy. It came with vegetables and sauce escabeche (vinegar, sage, black pepper). The green notes of the vegetables and sauce were a very nice counterpart to the sweet and fresh meat of the fish.

Duck liver nigiri

Duck liver nigiri

Until this point I thought, that I’ve seen it all. Then came this. One bite. A tiny one. But oh my god. A slice of lukewarm duck liver, coated with black pepper sauce. It was amazing, mouthfilling, with an eternal aftertaste of spicy, ducky fattiness. Paradise.

Deserts Honzen Ryori

Deserts Honzen Ryori

Deserts Honzen Ryori

Deserts Honzen Ryori

Back to earth 🙂 Back to the start with a Honzen Ryori of deserts. There were sweet patato „picarones“ with cinnamon honey (the doughnut), then a coconut pearl and a banana bonbon with umeshu gel (in the palm leaf). And of course the black sesame and yoghurt tree. Well, I’m not a big fan of Asian deserts. I liked the banana bonbon best, with it’s intense, mellow fruit taste.

Cocoa cona with lúmuma ice cream and coffee

Cocoa cona with lúmuma ice cream and coffee

Due to it’s earthy notes, this was a nice way of bringing your taste buds down again after so many interesting and complex flavors. Very straight, very nice.

Chicha candy

Chicha candy

And then, just before finish, a small candy to pick you up again. Citing a sweet Peruvian drink, this candy hit your taste buds with sweet/sour fruitiness.

Pakta Sweets

Pakta Sweets

As a last course they served some chocolate, the white one made with sakura and beautifully painted with Peruvian folklore art. A really nice last surprise, also in terms of sitting toghether, chatting and having some bits of chocolate.

I’m so happy that we’ve been to Pakta. It was an amazing experience. The staff was very relaxed, friendly, helpful and explained a lot about the food and the ingredients (in a charming version of Spanglish). All through the menue you could taste superior product quality, without any flaw. The presentation and preparation were very sophisticated, but still easily accessible. Great, one of the most beautiful restaurants I’ve ever been to. Including drinks and tip we paid 155€ per pax.