Our first day in Barcelona was pretty great; the flight over was relatively painless and we were able to get our bags fairly quickly after clearing customs. (I’d also like to mention that they actually stamp your passport with your visa here, which is not as common as it once was.) We were out and about in the city fairly quickly, making our first stop at La Boqueria for some food at El Pinotxo, and then doing some proper wandering around the city following that. We ended up by the Arc de Triomf and the Parc de la Ciutadella which was a first for us, and eventually we made our way back to the hotel to get some much-needed rest, relaxation, and packing time to get our bags for San Sebastian ready the next morning. We also had to take our big suitcases over to our other hotel for storage over the weekend, so it was a busy day.
Which should come as no surprise that by the time we were ready for dinner, we were both a little irritable. I had meal ideas in the Raval neighborhood on my map of fun, but Michael wasn’t feeling most of them. He called up Yelp on his phone and steered us to a restaurant with delightfully-illustrated doors, and when a kind waitress told me that they were five minutes from opening, we figured we’d give it a shot. We went in, informed them that we didn’t have a reservation, and yet they guided us to a table near the bar that we could sit at. In retrospect, we were supremely lucky that we got there when we did without a reservation because halfway into our meal people were being turned away as walk-ins even though the place was not remotely near to capacity.
Once we realized what we had stumbled into, we were able to realize why.
Dos Pebrots is a sister restaurant to Dos Palillos, a Spanish-Asian fusion restaurant headed by Albert Raurich who was at El Bulli from 1997 to 2007. While Dos Palillos is the higher-profile restaurant (it even has its own cookbook with the requisite blurb from Ferran Adria himself), Dos Pebrots is ostensibly the more “traditional” tapas restaurant, but from the moment you start reviewing the menu you realize that tradition has been excised in the name of history and provenance. Each dish on the menu comes from somewhere, sometimes from very long ago (like the blackened onion which features garum, an anchovy-based sauce from ancient Rome), and the waitstaff will walk you through each dish’s story. For ardent fans of Good Eats this is a delightful feature, and for everyone it provides some context as to why you’re eating what you’re eating.
They suggest you to order 7-8 tapas if you’re feeling hungry, and to order the whole fucking menu if you’re famished; we stuck to the former suggestion and went with eight dishes in total. Most of our dishes were on the modest side, either in ingredients or in volume, which made it really easy to make our way through most of them. The only dish I ended up missing was the final one which was the lamb kebab—we realized we were a half-hour away from the local Carrefour closing, and we wanted to have a little wine in the room so I ran over there to pick some up. By the time I got back M had cleaned the plate, mainly because they needed to turn the table but I had been so full regardless that I didn’t need it to begin with.
The most memorable of the dishes was easily the sow’s tits. Literally, we ate sow nipples. And full disclosure, they are delicious. But my favorite, favorite dish was a special that night: housemade fresh pasta with bottarga and sumac. I want to recreate this, though I want to do it with cured egg yolks instead of bottarga because I have wanted to try that technique for a while now, and this is the perfect reason to do so. I have some insight on how to melt bottarga into a sauce via Anthony Bourdain’s Appetites cookbook, and I usually keep a pretty steady stream of sumac in supply because M and I both like it so much. Not only did I devour my portion, but I totally did so to the remainder of Michael’s as well, and honestly it was so inspiring that I want to start curing egg yolks in order to remake this dish for my birthday celebration in (gulp) less than a month’s time.
What’s the most amazing thing about all of this is that after all of this indulgence and flights of fancy, the bill came to 110 euro, which is extraordinary for a restaurant that is on Michelin’s watch. It’s not a starred restaurant, but it’s listed with the others considered “of note” and it’s still less than what we’ve paid at far more prestigious restaurants, though that’s also probably due the fact that the wine here is highly reasonable at 2-3 euro a glass. And it’s really, really good wine at that.
In short: if you’re willing to divert slightly off the beaten tourist path and head into La Raval to go to Dos Pebrots, you will absolutely be rewarded for your efforts. To be safe, though, make a reservation if you can.