Photo by Patrica Esteve
The latest in the Tragaluz Group’s ever-growing empire promises authentic Chinese food, with a big star over the dim sum. And while this isn’t strictly true—there’s Mediterranean, Thai and Indian influences too—the aromatic steam and sizzle coming from the open kitchen does inspire a certain confidence.
Located on the ground floor of the swanky 1898 Hotel, on the Ramblas, it has dark wood floors, red melamine tables and dining armchairs the colour of lemon grass, all presided over by a giant, paper sea reptile. The canteen-style tables are set with knives and forks, chopsticks and two jugs of dipping sauce: soy with sesame and scallion, and incendiary chilli.
The four-course menú del día includes green or jasmine tea in true yum cha—tea drinking—tradition (La Xina does not serve coffee), and appears to adhere to the yin and yang philosophy central to Chinese culture: a balance of colour, texture and flavour with distinct warming (yang) and cooling (yin) properties.
Pillowy crab and scallion steamed dumplings (yin) burst with fragrant juices. A generous bowl of crisp, wok-fried veggies (yang) that includes mangetout, courgettes, red dulse and frilly white sea lettuce (both types of edible seaweed), Chinese cabbage, cloud ear and shitake mushrooms, lentil and mung bean sprouts is simple and satisfying. Chilli squid (yang), a Catalan-Chinese hybrid on a succulent base of sofregit (slowly sautéed peppers and onions) spiked with shards of whole, fresh lime (yin), lend interests. Mandarin sorbet (yin) to finish cools the stomach and cleans the palate. It’s not a bad deal at all.
The dim sum less so, offering 11 ‘dumplings’ of the steamed, pot sticker (pan-fried, then steamed) and deep-fried varieties that range from shrimp and cilantro to pork and peanut, but overpriced at four for €6, or a mix of five for €7.50. There are no pork bau (steamed buns), turnip cakes or ‘phoenix talons’ (chicken feet), but given the general dearth of dim sum in Barcelona, it’s an encouraging start.
Now, if they only came up with a dim sum brunch special, complete with trolley service, Sundays would really be looking up.
***La Xina, Pintor Fortuny 3, Raval; Tel. 93 342 9628; www.grupotragaluz.com. Menú €15. Open Mon.-Fri. 1.30pm-4pm, Sat. & Sun. 1pm-4.30pm. Sun-Thur. 8pm-11.30pm, Fri., Sat. 8pm-12.30am.