Latin-American eateries in Barcelona that deliver the goods.
La Taguara Arepería: The Venezuelan-style arepas of La Taguara are thick, baked corn cakes that are re-warmed to order, sliced open and spread lovingly with soft butter before being stuffed with a wide array of traditional Venezuelan ingredients. “This isn’t fusion,” says co-owner Juan Ignacio who, though Basque by birth, has spent the majority of his life in Venezuela. “This is Venezuela brought to Spain. Pure and simple.” Of the dozen or so arepas to choose from, the ‘Pabellón’ is the most classic and reportedly the most popular—a pillow-soft yet crunchy-shelled, buttery corn cake, packed generously with black beans, ripe plantain slices, braised beef and the shredded, Venezuelan cheese queso amarillo. Add a dash of the house hot sauce (more flavour than fire here) and avocado or corn purée, then wash it all down with one of their eight fresh juices (or a cold beer). The passionfruit juice (parchita in Venezuela, maracuya in Spain) was tangy and delicious. Located on a busy corner in the Born neighbourhood, the past three years have been good to La Taguara—they are opening a second location close to Plaça George Orwell in the coming weeks.
Rec 10 (Born), tel. 93 268 1572. Carrer del n’Arai 3 (Gòtic). Open every day for lunch and dinner. www.lataguara.es
La Taqueria: Nestled down a quiet street below Gaudí’s Sagrada Família, La Taqueria is the vibrant project of three friends (two from Mexico, one from Catalunya) that has already enjoyed two years of increasing popularity. With all the buzz it should be good, and a visit there confirms it is just that. A year ago, La Taqueria expanded across the narrow street, opening Doña Cuca—a food import business where lovers of Mexican condiments, beer, hard-to-find vegetables (like chayote squash), 100 percent agave tequila and boutique mezcal can shop to their heart’s content. If you want a snack while perusing the colourful goods, try the cueritos (if you dare)—tasty, pickled pig skin with a dash of hot sauce that were a traditional afternoon snack during the owner’s childhood, which I enjoyed with gusto.
Back across the street in the low-ceilinged dining room of La Taqueria, the chefs shave tender, pineapple-marinated roast pork from a vertical skewer; an image that may invoke thoughts of the döner kebabs of the Raval more than traditional Mexican cuisines. However, these tacos al pastor (pineapple pork tacos) are an indispensable classic done right. Though al pastor tacos are the star dish on this funky local’s menu, the beef tongue tacos are really what blew me away. My personal favourite (and the chef’s too, apparently), the beef tongue is cooked low and slow until it practically melts, diced into tiny cubes, and spiked with minced onions and plenty of cilantro. Topped with one of their three house-made salsas (mild green tomatillo, spicy tomato and ground chili, or hell-fire-hot, devil-red habanero) and accompanied by a glass of the traditional, fermented pineapple beverage tepache, these tacos are the real deal—the stuff that dreams are made of.
Passatge Font 5, tel. 93 126 1359. Open for lunch and dinner. Closed Mondays. www.lataqueria.eu
Kuk: Argentine Flor Morazzani has created a little world of delicious take-away foods in her tiny shop in the Eixample Dreta. It all began one night five years ago—almost by accident—as the home-made empanadas she baked for Bar Absenta’s tango night were an unexpected hit. After years of work and many, many bicycle deliveries around Barcelona, Kuk is still growing.
Flor says that her “small but powerful” crew runs the kitchen passionately, working to meet the every-increasing demand for the carefully-crafted empanadas, rich quiches and filling pizzas that have made Kuk Comidas more popular than she could have ever hoped for. It has been a challenge to adapt their small work space to match the huge demand for their products (that now include cannelloni, lasagna and mil hojas that are sold cold to be baked at home) without losing the feeling of walking into a grandmother’s kitchen that makes the petite storefront so charming.
‘Bigger and more beautiful’ than the rest, the empanadas of Kuk should not be missed: beef, olive and egg; spicy tomato, mozzarella and basil; courgette, leek and brie, and more—all wrapped in flaky pastry, baked to a golden brown, and fitting ever so perfectly in the palm of your hand.
Roger de Flor 167, tel. 93 458 5722. Open for lunch and dinner. Closed Mondays. www.kukcomidas.com