‘It’s more than just a bar for drinking, or a bar counter to sit at,’ says Oswaldo Brito. ‘Restaurant with bar’ is how they define it: I like the concept. The bar as a destination, not an accessory. That bar counter, behind which Bernat Bermudo works, is the heart of Mano Rota. It’s at the back, standing guard over the private room and the kitchen door.
Is it possible to know when a dish really matters? Naturally. There’s always one that stands out above the rest, that you find yourself thinking about days after you devoured it. This happened to me with the Thai suquet. Suquet – the classic Catalan fisherman’s dish – but Thai? Just reading it made my head spin. Two serving dishes – one with coconut milk, peanuts, lime and green curry, and the other a paella pan with a gift wrapped in Carta Fata paper: sea bass with a sofregit sauce, the foundation of Mediterranean Catalan cuisine. Unwrap it, and it releases delicious aromas. Each mouthful of fish and sofregit is to be dipped in the white Thai sauce. Disparate traditions that work together. Mano Rota is that Thai suquet. Close to home and far away. Brito is Venezuelan. Bermudo is Catalan. They worked together in Lima and bring common sense and knowledge to fusion.
Mano Rota has two bars, one at the entrance, for aperitifs and cocktails, and one at the back, with tables between them. Seated in front of the two chefs, I appreciate the carpentry, which uses raw materials from Holland. Good interior design that doesn’t overwhelm. And a good wine list. I start with a red, Brutal from Les Gavarres, and move on to a smooth Mencia from Algueira.
The yucca and scamorza cheese croquettes could use a little more citric mayonnaise to lighten the texture. The tracciatella burrata with a hazelnut praline and fried aubergines is a risky but successful combination, although the vegetables lose out somewhat. Top marks for the corball ceviche – perfectly cut – with yellow chilli. An impressive score for the tuna with a jus of lomo saltado (a Peruvian touch) – a sauce that would work with almost anything. Then another knockout dish: thin strips of raw Iberian pork fillet, cooked on the spot in hot dashi. The jowl bacon with dried apricots, miso and mustard is a bravura performance. I move on to the desserts, white chocolate and Greek yoghurt with red fruits. Less convincing, due to an excess of sugar, was the Irish coffee, although the coffee itself is exceptional, from Jordi Mestre at Nomad coffee.
The Avinguda del Paral·lel area, under its reigning monarch Albert Adrià, is on fire. The show is no longer at its theatres, but its restaurants.