Barcelona Eats: Ca L'Estevet set lunch menu
When I travel, I usually like to find restaurants I haven't eaten at before, to try new things. But I enjoyed my dinner at Ca L'Estevet in El Raval neighborhood of Barcelona so much just a few weeks ago, that decided that I would head back for lunch the other day. Also, there was an unfortunate, fatal collision on the train tracks which turned the 3 hour 40 minute journey from Valencia to Barcelona into a 5 hour ordeal, so I was in the mood for some pampering by treating myself to Ca L'Estevet.
I was especially excited to try their menú del mediodía, or set lunch menu, which they offer on weekdays. As usual in Spain, the set menu offers a really good value compared to ordering a la carte. Ca L'Estevet serves this menu from 1pm to 4pm, and with the train delay I made it just under the wire at 3:40pm.
Now, last time I was here, I was asked if I wanted Spanish or English menu, and I was handed a Spanish-Catalan bilingual menu along with a Catalan-only printout of the daily specials, the printout being available only in Catalan and English. This time, I was given the Catalan lunch menu straightaway, and the waiter later seemed a bit surprised when I asked for help understanding the menu in Spanish! This did give him an opportunity to make some recommendations and explain the preparations more, and I must say I was a bit tickled that they thought I could understand the menu. Living in Valencia, I now understand some main words, but others aren't very common in Valencia, since they seem to be specific to Catalan cuisine.
Here's the translation:
Amanida de cap i pota - warm "salad" of Catalan stew made with cow's head and legs "It's all meat," explained the waiter, suggesting that if I ordered a meat main course, I should order something lighter as an appetizer.
Macarrons gratinats - Penne au gratin
Amanida de porros i gambes - salad of leeks and prawns
Crema de gambes - prawn bisque
Espinacs a la catalana - Spinach "a la Catalan" with raisins and pine nuts
Cigrons amb samfaina - Chickpeas with ratatouille
Canelons de la casa - traditional "home-made Cannelloni (Barcelona style)" according to their English menu
Musclos al vapor - steamed mussels
Cargols de l'Estevet (2€ supplement) - Ca L'Estevet snails with salt, pepper, and thyme
Bacallà café de París - cod with "café de Paris" sauce. The waiter explained that this is a sauce normally used on meat, but here they pair it with cod as well. "This is the only restaurant where you'll find this dish!"
Fricandó amb moixernons - beef fricassee, thinly sliced stewed beef, with a sauce of moixernons (tiny field mushrooms)
Sardines a la planxa - griddled sardines
Cervellets a la romana - battered and fried brains
Tripa amb cigrons - tripe with chickpeas
Pernilets pollastre a l'allet - chicken leg with parsley-garlic sauce (al ajillo in Spanish)
Butifarra amb escalibada - Butifarra (traditional sausage) with roasted vegetables
Jarret amb trompetes - ham hock with trumpet mushrooms
Plates with 7€ supplement
Turbot a la graella - grilled turbot
Rapet a la marinera - monkfish a la marinere (with a seafood sauce, perhaps mussels and prawns)
Filet a la graella - grilled fillet of veal
Beverage and either dessert or coffee are included
(And not mentioned on menu, tiny olives and a fresh bread basket are also included in the price)
The waiter really recommended the cod and the fricandó, and going with the fricandó for my second course, he recommended the salad of leeks and prawns. Now, I was expecting something with lettuce, like the salad I had for dinner the last time. No. This was prawns, so fresh and expertly prepared that they were super delicate and sweet, topped with a pickled relish, providing just the right counterpoint of bite, on a bed of unctuous, braised leeks. And the leftover oil was perfect for sopping up with bread.
I could have gone home after this dish, and been completely happy.
My next dish was the fricandó. Now, I didn't make the connection that fricandó is fricandeau in French, and is probably frikandel in Dutch. But in the various cuisines, the word could mean sliced meat, sliced meat in sauce, paté, or sausage. The waiter explained that this was beef that was stewed until very tender, in thin slices, with a mushroom sauce.
The beef indeed with extremely tender, breaking apart at the touch of the fork. It wasn't until after I started eating that I realized that the sauce wasn't any ol' mushroom sauce. The mushrooms were these tiny, tiny mushrooms that look like they're chopped up but are instead just whole, micro mushrooms.
The waiter I had was so very friendly. By this time, we had had the conversation that this wasn't my first time in the restaurant, that he remembered me from last time, and he told me that surely I must not be a tourist and that I lived in Barcelona. I told him I lived in Valencia, but came to Barcelona every now and then. After this little chit chat, he really took extra good care of me!
He brought out a little plate of a small potato poached in oil. He said that when I got down to the point when there was a little bit of sauce left, that it was really tasty to mash the potato up with the sauce and eat it up like that.
And tasty, it was!
For dessert, there was a choice of flan ("3 ingredients," the waiter explained: eggs, milk, and sugar), tocinillo ("2 ingredients: eggs and sugar," making it sweeter and more translucent), crema catalana (like a more runny creme brûlée), ice cream in various flavors, and sorbet in various flavors.
I chose the crema catalana, since I had the flan last time, and tocinillo is generally a bit sweet for me, although I would be up for trying their version of it.
The crema catalana had a nicely caramelized crust. After the waiter brought this out, he asked if I had tried the typical cookies, which I indeed had last time. He rushed over to the front to put some on a plate for me. He said that the biscotti-looking ones were good for dipping in the crema catalana!
By the end of the meal, I was totally full, and felt just so happy inside. There were three things that made me feel especially happy at this point: first, the food was delicious and expertly prepared. Secondly, there were surprises with the food, things I didn't expect, things that I hadn't seen before, like the braised leeks paired with prawns or the tiny moixernon mushrooms. And finally, I liked recognized from last time, and could make a personal connection with the staff. I feel like I've found "my" Barcelona restaurant that I can come back to time and again.