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Photo by Richard Owens
Chef Adelf Morales
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Photo by Richard Owens
Sometimes I think I must wander about with my head in the clouds, because Topik seemed to come at me out of nowhere. It’s been around since October 2009, but the first I heard of it was through a chef friend who told me, a couple of months back, that I simply had to go. Unfortunately, my attempts at making a reservation for what seemed like an amazing lunch deal didn’t quite go according to plan. “You can’t reserve if you’re having the menu del día,” said the voice at the end of the phone. “If you want to reserve, you have to go à la carte.” I know it’s a Friday and all that, but still! If you want a bargain lunch, first come first served rules apply, I suppose.
Suffice to say I made the reservation to eat à la carte and got there at 2.30pm to find the place about a quarter full. Fortunately the menu read so well I didn’t actually mind being forced to go à la carte, though the experience did stick in my craw. Moving on though, the place itself is bright and sunny with large windows giving to the street at the front, and more intimate and cosy down the stairs at the back. The red brick walls, white-painted beams and comfortable chairs make it a pleasant place to be, despite the fact that during the 15 minutes I wait for my friend nobody so much as offers me a glass of water. They don’t even look in my direction and I’m gasping. I know it sounds like a lot of griping, but I do it from a place of love: if these little things were sorted out, Topik would be a truly terrific place to eat and getting a whole lot more attention than it currently does.
Chef Adelf Morales earned his stripes in the stellar kitchens of San Sebastian before disappearing off to Japan to learn the fine art of cuisine over there and bringing back a clean, clear approach to the Mediterrasian genre. Solid Spanish ingredients including smoky cecina de León, luscious jamón ibérico, plump Cantabrian anchovies, spider crab from the Basque country, tender octopus from Galicia and some local rib-stickers such as cap i pota form the basis of tapas-sized dishes jazzed up with punchy Asian flavours: wasabi, soy, seaweed, miso and sake all feature albeit with a light, thoughtful touch. The wine list is carefully considered, too, and includes a small selection that changes by the month.
My friend begins with an oyster, which has been gently poached in miso and topped with scallions and shredded seaweed. It’s not quite what he was expecting (read: raw), but is nevertheless a happy marriage of salt, ozone and a cheeky little jolt of fresh green onions. Being allergic to this type of bivalve, I have juicy king prawns wrapped in ribbons of vermicelli, deep-fried and served with homemade allioli, and we share four croquetes de txangurro (spider crab), sweet and oozy as can be. A hunk of besugo (gilthead bream) in sake is as glossy as mother-of-pearl and tender as butter, nicely contrasted by a square of crunchy coca topped with creamy unagi (eel, sushi style) and grilled foie. Wild mushroom canelons topped with truffled béchamel brought us back to the Catalan hinterland, wrapping us up in ravishing pillows of warmth. Indeed the only dud among them were the deconstructed patatas bravas, comprising the usual tepid, soggy potatoes shaped into a tube and topped with a teaspoonful of boring brava sauce. Ho hum.
But then, joy, for an entire two-man arroz con sepia y alcachofas soon arrived as our main course—a triumphant mix of plump little grains of rice clad in a richly fishy stock with the welcome contrasting textures of cuttlefish and artichokes. It almost finished us—if you have the tasting menu, be sure to come hungry—but not quite. I did my usual thing of pretending I couldn’t possibly eat dessert, but still managed to scarf down a mojito sorbet topped off with a shot of aged rum (utterly delicious) and my guest made short work of a hazelnut coulant.
Given the run of good eats I’ve had in Barcelona lately, I can only say our chefs and restaurants are on a roll. And Topik deserves a place with the best of them.
Follow Tara’s gourmet musings on Twitter: @taralstevens
Topik, València 199, tel. 93 451 0923, www.topikrestaurant.es. Open Tue-Sat 1pm-3.30pm, 8pm-11.30pm; Sun 1pm-3.30pm; Mon 8pm-11pm. Menu del día €12.50. Tasting menu €30 for six tapas, a generous main and dessert.
Tara’s rating: ✪✪✪✪