Every now and then, I stumble upon a great restaurant and I’m shocked that I had not discovered it sooner. Rasoterra is one of these places. Champions of the ‘0km’ Slow Food movement, this 100 percent vegetarian restaurant’s offerings struck me as far more interesting than the average curries, salads and quiches so popular at most of the city’s other veggie-centric eateries. The bistro exudes an elevated level of elegance that was apparent from the moment we entered their inviting dining room, just steps from Plaça Sant Jaume. Rasoterra has all the makings of an excellent place for a weekday lunch, and a bistro vibe that makes it seem equally plausible to spend hours here with my laptop and coffee. But I’m glad that my first experience was in the evening, when I could soak up the thoughtfully curated ambience and romantic air of this casual space alongside a good friend who upholds a meat-free existence.
Rasoterra is a restaurant with principles, supported by its own manifesto: “Because behind each of our dishes, behind each and every one of our ingredients, there is a story. Stories about traditions, cultures, places, secrets, arts and crafts. Stories of love, dedication and passion. We tell you these stories simply and faithfully, just as they were told to us.” You have to love a restaurant with convictions, and Rasoterra keeps theirs at the core of everything they do.
Being a chef and writer, I love food with a back-story. There’s no better way to connect with what you are eating than understanding where it came from and why it is prepared as it is. The Rasoterra manifesto continues, touching on the virtues of honesty, openness, love, and community, and I believe they practise what they preach. Being a vegetarian and vegan restaurant, the old adage of ‘you are what you eat’ makes a predictable, but significant, appearance in the manifesto as well. If the adage is true, on this particular evening I was a spicy watercress salad with pears, pomegranate, walnuts and chilli; a taco of huitlacoche, black beans and sweet potato, and a hearty plate of cabbage dumplings stuffed with cardoons in almond cream served on a mound of vegetarian trinxat with lentils.
I enjoyed the taco, though the pungent and prized flavour of huitlacoche (a delicious black fungus that grows on corn and is known as ‘corn smut’ in English, or sometimes ‘Mexican truffle’ for its savoury, earthy aroma) was not very apparent. For a meat-free taco, I thought they did a good job, but the sweet potato and beans unsettled the balance.
The menu at Rasoterra has helpful denotations beside each dish, letting diners know which plates can be prepared vegan, which are locally sourced (0km), and which are gluten-free. Gluten-free eating is something that only a small fraction of Barcelona restaurants understand, let alone offer, but options are aplenty at Rasoterra. The gluten-intolerant can choose from multiple starters, main-course plates and even a handful of desserts, as well as six different craft beers made without wheat. The beautiful thing about gluten-free and vegetarian/vegan food done right is that you hardly notice that your meal caters to a specific diet. The food is just...food. Though the menu at Rasoterra does include a bit of tempeh (a firm, pressed soybean product) and tofu, the true stars here are grains, nuts, legumes and other protein-rich vegetables. Take it from a devout carnivore, I was more than satisfied with the earthy cornucopia that arrived on my plate.
Of all the dishes we sampled, my favourite had to be the final plate of Farcellets de col, card i crema d’ametlles amb trinxat d’espigalls i llenties pardines (the cardoon-stuffed cabbage). The technical skill required in the cooking of this dish was impressive—from the carefully-stuffed leaves of steamed cabbage and the richness of the almond cream to the tender little lentils and the hearty potato and cabbage mash (trinxat).
The cocktail list at Rasoterra also shines, with drinks like Moscow Mules and Negronis, and the prices are reasonable. All bar ingredients are created from fresh products, never using pre-prepared syrups or frozen garnishes. At only €6, the Negroni (gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth) seemed like the perfect way to open my appetite and ease into our meal.
I’m looking forward to my next visit to Rasoterra, perhaps for some afterwork tapas, or for the menú del día, which is blooming with salads, soups, pastas, rices and stews. I’d happily settle down for a leisurely midday meal of refreshing fusilli pasta with carrot and herb pesto, brussels sprouts consommé with vibrant garnishes of pumpkin and mint and creamy coconut chia flan, any day of the week. The service was knowledgeable and friendly, and I departed feeling content and thankful for this newfound treasure. It has certainly been added to my list of preferred places for a delicious, casual and healthy meal in the Ciutat Vella.