Two restaurants in Barcelona that deserve praise for their fantastic seafood are El Caballito Blanco and Botafumeiro.
El Caballito Blanco
Though the food at El Caballito Blanco was outstanding, but I almost didn’t eat there. Upon entering, I hesitated. The generic stock-art on the faux wood paneled walls and harsh fluorescent lighting did not make for the best impression. I’m glad I looked past this and concentrated on the menu. Things like mussels marinara, lamb cutlets, duck, salads, pâtés, and various preparations of fish made choosing a single item difficult. Each item looked better than the last.
Unable to decide between the available pâtés, I happily opted for the tasting option of three kinds. Moments later, three generous portions of delicious, homemade pâtés [click for a pic] (peppered, mushroom and provincial) were placed before me. They were each delicious, but the provincial, with larger pieces of meat and more herbs, was my favorite.
The pâtés were a promising start to the meal and I was eager to try my main course, seared Hake (fish) in garlic. The dish was amazing in its simplicity–essentially just fish, garlic, and olive oil–and superbly cooked. A cross section of the fish was served drizzled with olive oil with roasted garlic cloves on and around. I had to ask for an extra piece of bread to mop up the oil and garlic that remained. When fresh, fish doesn’t require much in the way of seasoning. I’d argue less in more, and I think the chef at El Caballito Blanco would too.
Botafumeiro was a splendid beast of a restaurant. This restaurant is all about the seafood and is not ashamed of it. At the door you can spot tanks of fish, lobster, and crab. Trays of sea snails and mollusks on ice flank the tanks. The inside is wood paneled and decorated to evoke the inside of a ship–wood and brass dominate.
The menu encompasses nearly every kind of seafood you can imagine, from squid-ink paella and roast fish to lobster and barnacles.
My meal started with an appetizer of snails in their shells served with mayonnaise and a roast tomato and onion sauce on the side. The snails tasted of the sea and the texture was firm and slightly chewy, but not unpleasantly so—though first time eaters may be put off by this combination.
Following the snails I had the grilled Rape (aka Monkfish) with vegetables. The fish was well cooked and the slight char and smoke from the grill was excellent, but the flavors of both the fish and the vegetables were somehow muted.
After the meal, my friend and I were brought a dessert of a few small cakes, almond biscuits and a sweet wine, complements of the house. Not a bad way to end the meal.
All-in-all though, I must say I enjoyed El Caballito Blanco more. Botafumiero is ideal if you are looking for exotic sea foods, but for a delicious, well prepared meal at an reasonable price, El Caballito Blanco is a better option.