Photo by Richard Owens
Restaurant Review: Catch of the Day
When I received notice from the Rías de Galicia that they had opened a raw bar I rubbed my wintry, bun-sticky mitts together in glee.
The restaurant was something of a powerhouse when it first opened in 1986, but had become a little jaded until the sons took over a few years ago. They revamped and perhaps more crucially, teamed up with the Adrià brothers’ ever-growing empire, injecting new life into the place. Three years after the original restaurant was renovated, Rias de Galicia has sprouted a couple of babies in the shape of tapas bar Cañota (a more down-home version of Tickets) and Espai Kru, described as un mar de tapas.
Located above the original restaurant, Espai Kru is a much cheaper and more informal eating experience once you can get past the slightly bonkers filosofía, which cheerfully bangs on about how two million years ago, before fire, we ate our fish raw, and how after that came marinades, dressings and seasonings and here we are today with our sashimi, ceviche and clever flavour combinations.
Historically accurate maybe, but I’m not quite sure what all this is trying to say about their actual philosophy but you get the idea, it’s a fish joint with a raw bar and cocktails. Beyond the waffle it’s all drool-worthy stuff from the pristine crustacean and shellfish under glass to cooked dishes like sautéed sea cucumbers with confit potatoes and cilantro oil, chunks of lobster doused in garlic, and hake filets squiggled with squid ink and spring onions.
Considering how thoroughly downtown Poble Sec is, Espai Kru does an admirable job of creating an uptown vibe. With its pearly grey tones and neon-orange piping lighting, it’s a bit like being inside an oyster’s disco peopled with glamorous sorts who flit about the bar looking important, air-kissing and sipping spritzs before supper and indeed, long into it. The trend of pairing half-sized cocktails with little dishes began in New York a few years ago with the opening of such iconic places as Death + Company, and while it has been less successful this side of the Atlantic, Espai Kru buzzes on booze and bonhomie.
I try to imagine myself back here in January, when the decadence of December demands a lighter, brighter kind of dinner—and a mercy martini—and it makes me feel quite celebratory. And so, as I sit waiting for my friend, I find myself thinking of oysters. As long time readers know, an allergy prevents me from eating them but the raw bar tonight is stacked with bivalves and they seem to be calling my name. I urge my friend to have at least one and she obliges by choosing the most interesting sounding, a gigantic Galician mother bathed in a pool of sake and ponzu, which she described as ‘fine’. Not wildly enthusiastic praise it must be said, but then she’s a purist on these matters, and my silky scallop sashimi with a dab of erizo (sea urchin), soy sauce for salt, and delicate sprigs of purple basil for freshness was a thing of beauty. I’m still gushing about it now to anyone who will listen. Likewise about a ceviche of salmonete (red mullet), served whole like the fish you see in Tom and Jerry cartoons, but keenly spiked with citrus and spice and sliced into chopstick friendly strips.
A pot of mussels shows how little you need to do to make the freshest of seafood sing. These were just cooked and plump with a splash of white wine and a whiff of tarragon. Lovely. I would like to go and have a big bowl of them with chips for lunch one day, but Espai Kru doesn’t serve chips as far as I know. Odd because they do offer a posh version of chip-shop fish—in this case a basket of crunchy breaded turbot that burst open revealing juicy, flaky, snow-white flesh. It was very tasty and I’m a sucker for a dish of homemade mayo and a spice dust for dipping, but it does seem a bit of a waste of such a fancy fish. Frying is, after all, one of those miraculous culinary techniques that makes everything taste good. Still, I can think of worse ways to stay warm.
Happy 2013 everyone! Here’s to a good one.
Espai Kru, Carrer Lleida 7, Poble Sec.
Tel. 93 424 81 52 / 93 423 45 70.
www.riasdegalicia.com. Open Tue-Sat 1.30pm-4pm, 8pm-11.30, Sun 1.30pm-4pm. Closed Monday.
Approx €50 per head for several shared plates of
seafood and a bottle of wine. ✪✪✪