Unfortunately, Inopia has recently closed .. Albert and his brother Ferran seem to have another interesting tapas bar project in the works, which I am sure will be as exciting as what we thought Inopia was. The 2 meals we had there on our last visit to Spain, eating our way almost through the entire menu including specials, was just too good not to share!
Inopia was a must on our Barcelona-eats list. A tapas bar owned by Albert Adria, the brother of Ferran from El Bulli. He has published a book, Natura, and is famed for his amazing pastry work done at El Bulli. We had scribbled the address down on a scrap of paper, and jump in a taxi .... We get dropped off reasonably close, but it was actually quite hard to find. 20 minutes later we spot the quaint little bar. It's just opened, and already the door area is roped off & there's a doorman with a clipboard. It's then we know these tapas must be serious!
We get past the doorman, and are ushered to a pair of stools at one of the oddly shaped benches. It's bright, with exposed fluorescent light tubes. The white tiles that line the walls are scribbled with autographs from celebrities and chefs, with polaroids tacked to the wall as well. There are glasses filled with fresh herbs on the counters. Baskets of fresh vegetables. Fake flowers. Marble countertops. Specials scrawled on blackboards. Pictures hanging from the ceiling. It is actually a lot to take in ...
We comb the menu, including the specials on the blackboards, and just start firing away dishes. The first to arrive is the Russian Salad (it's everywhere in Barcelona!). The potatoes coated in a rich mayonnaise, with some tuna, roasted pepper & capers is a small oval dish spiked with a few bread sticks.
Dried tuna with salted almonds comes out and initially I think this is the salt cured dry aged beef. It's so dark, the sliced looking like a cured meat. It's salty and dry, but still with enough of the fish oils to make it succulent. The salted, blanched almonds add texture and depth.
Next is the salt cured dry aged beef. The slices are about the same size as the tuna, but the fat marbling is definitely visible.
Tinned mussels. Divine. The tinned seafood in Spain is caught in it's prime, and packaged and processed to contain as much of the flavor as possible. These mussels have been sitting under a spicy oil, and were full of flavor.
We then have a few little toasts, the first; white anchovy with tomato seeds, and the second; salmon, cream cheese and honey.
Chicken chupa chups appear on today specials and are a must for us. The little chicken drumettes have a super crispy coating and are golden in colour, with a very spicy red sauce. Even the golden / red colour reminds me of a chupa chup!
The patatas bravas are a fine example of this staple, the rustic cutting of the potatoes adding an interesting element, and both the sauces were divine. (They even sold the red sauce in jars when we were there).
Chicken Pintxo comes out on a very very long stick. The thin pieces of chicken threaded onto the long stick, and one end sitting on a slice of baguette.
The mini burger is just that, mini - I knew we should have ordered 2. The little bun has black & white sesame seeds, a juicy little beef patty, pickles and cheese.
Fried eggplant with sweet molasses are little triangles of the crumbed and fried eggplant with the sweet drizzle. A nice sweet and savory combination, perfect to lead us into the cheese course ....
Ah, the cheese course. A whole wheel of soft, baked, mild white cheese coated in a truffle honey. Oh .. My.
Caramel vodka comes with a super crispy tuille straw - one you can eat afterwards.
And such a simple, home-style dessert. Pears poached in red wine, served in a bag with the spice & wine swimming amongst the tender chunks of pear.
On our first visit, we manage to spot Albert sitting and chatting to group of people. We just start talking to our waiter when we pay the bill and ask if there was any chance to have a photo with him... He ducks over and asks Albert, who graciously comes over and introduces himself, talks with us about our Spain travels and living in Japan, and is happy to have his photo with us. Very cool!
Our second visit at least we don't waste time trying to find it. We get out of the cab, and head straight to the little roped off tapas bar. It's already full, we actually have to wait about 15 minutes for a few chairs to free up. This time we are seated right in the open window, which is lovely. Also looking straight into one part of the little open kitchen and having a very nice barman to talk to. Glasses of sparkling rose and lardo on toast kicks off meal no. 2.
Tomato salad with onions and tuna belly is divine. The tuna is so succulent and salty, and the tomatoes plump and fresh with no skins. The little tresses of pickled onion sprout out of the top and look oh-so cute, but also add a very much needed kick of acidity that harmonises the whole dish.
Ah, chicken coated in Xips. Xips are a Spanish potato chip cooked in olive oil that we had enjoyed on a few occasions (I took some on the flight to Singapore). The chicken tenders were coated in the smashed Xips, giving the tender meat a shattering coating. A yellow honey & mustard aioli on the side for dipping.
Bombas were little fried, meat and cheese filled balls, with aioli and bravas sauce.
Boiled Iberian shoulder ham is served a little wooden board, drizzled with good olive oil and sprinkled with paprika.
Seared and marinated tuna with a roast tomato sauce and baby leaves is robust and filling.
We sample 2 varieties of anchovies; the pickled white anchovies and plump San Fillipo anchovies.
In a food coma at this state, I know we had another of the caramel vodka, but there was also another alcoholic concoction.
The first dessert for the evening was fresh sliced pineapple with a thick molasses. The tartness of the pineapple and the rich sweetness of the molasses a perfect match.
The last dish to complete our epic, 2 part feast at the late Inopia was candied strawberries with chardonnay vinegar.
We feel lucky that we were able to experience Inopia before it closed, and will be definitely keep an eye out for what the brothers are up to in the future ....