Tapas in Barcelona

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It's day seven of my vacation in Barcelona, where my husband's family lives, and though we've had many fantastic meals (a noodle and squid ink dish called fideua negra; several rounds of paprika and aioli-dressed fried potatoes; little sandwiches piled with everything from anchovies and olives to salmon and honey), the one I keep thinking about is our lunch at Bar Mut. On our visit, the upscale tapas bar, in the city's Eixample district, was filled with sunlight, a clientele of scruffy, cigarette-smoking bohemians, and some of the most surprising and delicious food I've ever had.

loremipsum/Flickr

We started with a plate of gambas, or shrimp (pictured at left), cooked on a griddle and sprinkled with chopped chives, and an escarole and calçot (Spanish green onion) salad, accompanied by a chunky romesco sauce and thick, luscious slices of preserved tuna belly. After that, a stack of potato gallettes, each smeared with purees of roasted artichokes and of sea urchin that perfectly balanced crisp and creamy textures. Next, and last, braised oxtail and mashed potatoes drizzled with a red wine reduction and topped with fried scallions. I've had similar renditions of this dish in New York City, but the especially tender meat and rich sauce in this one made it a real standout. One of the best aspects of the food at Bar Mut is that it hews to Barcelona's culinary traditions (seasonal produce, lots of fresh and canned seafood) but also experiments with unusual combinations and artful presentations. And, unlike many other tapas bars here, Bar Mut offers a wide range of Spanish wines by the glass. The restaurant doesn't have a website, but chef Albert Mendiola's cooking hasn't gone unnoticed. Our meal there was a memorable highlight of my trip; my 15-month-old even tried—and liked—the sea urchin.

Bar Mut, Carrer de Pau Claris, 192, Barcelona, Spain; 34/93/217-4338. Photos by loremipsum/Flickr.