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Ítaka Tabernita, with its sunny terrace and eclectic decor, has been open on Passeig de Pujades across from the Parc de la Ciutadella for nearly a year now. I first discovered this little restaurant just weeks after they had first opened. The menu was Greek, and so were the owners. The barebones space was lacking in all but the most basic service fundamentals (tables, chairs, and ashtrays), and the menu offered a very short list of Cretan dishes and ‘Grecian tapas’.
I decided to revisit Ítaka Tabernita this past month and to my surprise, what I found was essentially an entirely new restaurant; only the original name remained. The new owners are a husband and wife team with Parisian and American-Bosnian backgrounds, respectively. They have brought an interesting mix of Spanish, Italian, Greek, American and French to their new venture, with offerings such as couscous with bacon, feta cheese, vegetables, and curry, a caprese sandwich on baked pizza-style bread, a classic Reuben sandwich with Hungarian pastrami, smoked salmon salad with watercress and fresh horseradish, and vegan kofte with crunchy cashew peanut sauce and cool mint yoghurt.
Initially, I was a bit disappointed not to find as many Greek dishes on the menu as I had hoped, but in the end this interesting new melange of different styles was equally pleasing. Starting with the Greek salad was a must, and the version at Ítaka had great flavour, bringing me back, in a heartbeat, to my last trip to the islands of the Aegean. This crisp, fresh salad combines three types of flavoursome tomatoes, hunks of salty feta cheese, marinated cucumber slices, red onion, peppers and olives, with a punch of fresh dill and mint to finish. A nice touch is the side of toasted rye bread from Barceloneta’s famous Baluard bakery—the source of nearly all of the bread on Ítaka Tabernita’s menu.
Of all the dishes that we tasted, the vegan kofte was quite special. From Persia to Turkey and India to Greece, kofte is a tasty delight that knows no borders. It is most typically a grilled, cigar-shaped patty of minced meat that comes in many forms, and as many spellings. At Ítaka Tabernita, the kofte is presented as delicious little patties of ground chickpeas, coriander, fresh ginger, breadcrumbs, garlic and courgette; well-seasoned with cumin and browned over high heat on the flat-top grill. Surprisingly filling, yet not at all heavy, this dish might just make it into my home kitchen repertoire.
With colourful strings of lights spanning the small-yet-comfortable dining area, classic Barcelona tiles underfoot, and low, cushioned benches lining walls adorned with a mishmash of artistic flourishes, Ítaka Tabernita appears to have taken a stab at capturing the attention of locals and visitors alike. With an accessible, healthy, ‘pan-Mediterranean’ menu all day and live music at night, this little spot is a safe bet for tasty food that has been prepared with care, as well as evening cocktails on a typical, balmy, Barcelona night. The kitchen is open until around midnight, and inside the restaurant, live flamenco and rumba catalana continue on into the night. For a street with such a great view of the city park and such ample sidewalks, few other restaurants here have taken full advantage of their priveleged location. Luckily for Ítaka Tabernita, their bid to be different seems to be paying off. I look forward to seeing how this pleasant little restaurant continues to evolve.
- Passeig de Pujades 21-23.
- Tel. 93 125 3178. www.itakabarcelona.com
- Kitchen Hours: Tues-Sun, 12pm-12am
- Music until 2am
- Price: Lunch €10-€15