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El Quim de la Boqueria, Barcelona, Spain

Posted By Nicole On November 10, 2011 @ 4:09 pm In Restaurants,Travel | 6 Comments

El Quim de la Boqueria
I had a lot of favorites on my trip to Barcelona, so I’m not going to try to rank every meal that I ate in order of preference. Instead, I’m simply going to say that I think El Quim de la Boqueria is an absolute MUST try for food lovers visiting the city. The small restaurant is located right in the heart of La Boqueria Market. It has just 16 stools and a very busy grill that is swarming with outstanding chefs at its heart. It opens early in the morning for breakfast and also serves lunch, then closes in the early afternoon as the market crowd thins out. The food features both traditional Spanish and Catalan dishes alongside very innovative ones. Everything is incredibly fresh and unbelievably well prepared. I raved about it while I was eating and went back several times on my trip, never to be disappointed with anything I ate.

When you arrive at El Quim, it will probably be swarming with people. Just stand behind a few seats where the diners look like they’re almost finished and be patient; chefs will point out open seats and the stools turn quickly. When you sit down, take a quick look through the glass cases at the bar and see what looks good. You’ll find some traditional tapas dishes and lots of seafood that is so fresh it’s still moving. Next, read through the menu (you can get it in English, too) and see what sounds good. Finally, take a look at what the people around you are eating; most of the diners are very friendly and are more than happy to tell you what they’re eating and make recommendations for their favorite items.

I’m narrowing down these pictures to a selection of my favorite dishes from El Quim, and I have to admit that looking at them makes me wish I were back there for lunch today. Some of my favorites were simple egg dishes. Eggs with crispy serrano ham and doused with olive oil were a perfect start to breakfast, with lots of fresh bread to soak up the oil.

Fried Eggs with serrano ham

For something a little more substantial, fried eggs with caramelized onions and caramelized foie gras made a very rich dish that had an amazing combination of sweet and savory flavors. The foie gras was very impressive, as it was a real slab of duck liver and not a small slice of pureed liver. It was crusted with coarse sugar and caramelized until it had a thick crust on the cut side and was ultra-creamy in the center, much like savory creme brulee. Foie gras isn’t a food for everyone, I know, but if you’re going to eat it, I have to say that this is the way to go.

Eggs with Foie Gras

Patatas bravas are fried potatoes paired with a spicy tomato sauce. They are definitely a Barcelona favorite and you’ll find them at just about any restaurant you walk in to. They’re a simple dish that they do very well a El Quim. The potatoes were crisp on the ouside and tender and moist inside. The potatoes were very well seasoned with coarse sea salt, but the spicy sauce took them over-the-top.

Patatas Bravas El Quim

One of their specialties is baby squid grilled in their own ink. I’m not generally a fan of squid ink dishes or squid, but I had to give this specialty a try after the couple (from San Francisco) sitting next to us heartily recommended it. The squid was very good: tender and flavorful without being too salty or briny. And that grilled tomato on the side of the plate? Wonderful. The squid appeared with several other menu items, as well. If you’re looking for other seafood, razor clams and muscles were also extremely popular.

Baby Squid at El Quim

One more foie gras dish that I will mention is also one of El Quim’s specialties, a burger with foie gras. This dish features a large, homemade burger patty that is topped with roasted eggplant, tomato and another large slice of the same caramelized foie gras that was on the egg dish. A syrupy balsamic reduction finished the plate and added a strong sweet-savory note.  This was a meaty, rich dish that really worked. The eggplant,tomato and balsamic were sharp enough to balance the richness of the foie and the burger. Great combination and not surprising that this is a specialty of the house.

Foie Gras Burger

El Quim also has specials on a regular basis, both items that last a whole season and items that change on a daily basis. Ask about these, or look out for little signs/menus announcing them. This Solidarity Tapa was one that was being promoted when I went, and part of the proceeds from its sale went to charity. The dish was sauteed mushrooms with onion confit, asparagus and foie foam, finished with a drizzle of balsamic reduction. It was so savory and every element just melted in your mouth.

Solidarity Tapa
Solidarity Tapa

I will also say that El Quim had more high-end items on their menu than some of the other eateries in the market and, because of those dishes, their prices were a bit higher than some other places. I think that the food was not just some of the best I ate there, but some of the best that I’ve eaten. This is especially true of that sugar-crusted caramelized foie gras, which basically blew away any preparation I’ve had at any other restaurant and was very reasonably priced considering the quality and the standards in that kitchen. Make this a stop on any trip to Barcelona. Going to the market is a great experience and a meal at El Quim is the perfect way to cap it off.


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