Barraca, Barcelona, Spain

Rice.  You came for arroz.  At least, you want to have excellent paella while in Barcelona, and not from one of the tourist traps serving overcooked-to-mush shrimp rolling around in glow-in-the-dark irradiated yellow rice.  You came to the right place.

Your fearless author pigging out!

Located perfectly, almost as if the traditional fisherman’s neighborhood of Barceloneta were a spear jutting into the sea, if you ask nicely you can score a table looking out onto Playa de Sant Sebastiá.  Bring a scarf so that you can leave the windows open; the briny sea breeze is the perfect seasoning for the rice.

But don’t rush to the rice too quickly!  The chef creates magnificent symphonies of mussel concoctions based on whatever is fresh that day.  On our day, my companion and I were simply blown away by a Szechuan pepper and lemongrass broth that was perfectly balanced, and not too spicy for my spice-shy dining partner.

As regards the service, I believe this little vignette will tell you all you need to know about Barraca’s standards and care for excellence:  on our first visit, we ordered a bottle of wine.  Normally I find the rote present label-open-present cork-taste-approve traditional wine service song and dance to be a gratuitously formalistic bore.  But, as any wine nerd can tell you, every now and then a cork goes bad or bottle gets mishandled, turning the otherwise good wine inside into something from a dare reality television show.  My poor Catalan companion was horrified when I sent the wine back.  She, and the waitress, both were noticeably nervous that I had somehow executed a breach of etiquette, the punishment for which was likely to be grave.  The owner, however, came to the table, nonchalantly poured a taste into his glass, and took 1.5 seconds to nod and declare the bottle a dud, removed it from the check and issued us a new wine.  No fuss at all.

So, for the location, the service, and the food, make this an afternoon stop for classic seafood rice (paella, that is) in the sun.

Barraca, Passeig Marítim Barceloneta, 1, 08003 Barcelona, Spain 

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