By Lory Diaz
I recently visited Barsa Taberna to sample the seventh incarnation of their menu. Head chef Justin Van Der Berg, from Holland, has developed an assortment of dishes, taking a youthful and refreshing approach to the traditional dishes of Spain.
Barsa is nestled into the lower level of the historic St Lawrence Market building. The location is reminiscent of an old Spanish wine cellar: brick archways partnered with low ceilings and dim lighting separate the dining area into intimate spaces. Blue and lime glass bottles come together to inject a pop of colour into the space as a large mural running parallel to the bar. One can safely assume this is inspired by the mosaic genius of Spanish artists Gaudi.
I review the cocktail list, and am instantly enticed by the Porto Mojito. I was surprised at how well the sweet port was complemented by the minty-lime flavours of a mojito, but did find the drink to be quite pulpy. For anyone who has trouble pacing their alcohol consumption during a first date, this is an ideal selection.
We started with the blood sausage and apricot compote pintxo (pronounced “pincho”), and roasted ancho chilies. I was slightly disappointed with blood sausage, which would have benefitted from more seasoning, but the ancho chilies were wonderful. They had just the right amount of saltiness, and the occasional punch of heat was wonderful.
I’m a fan of fruit flavours in savory dishes, so I ordered the Truchas en Escabeche: trout in a sweet and sour sauce made of fresh orange, fennel, and pomegranate juice. I think this dish has the potential to be quite lovely, but found that the sauce wasn’t reduced enough to really enhance the complexity that the pomegranate and citrus combination could exhibit.
My next choice was the Pulpo Ezpeleta: grilled octopus, charred potatoes, and pickled vegetables. The octopus was cooked properly, meaning not chewy at all, and went very well with the starchiness from the potatoes. The addition of the vinegar from the pickled vegetables added a great crisp acidity to each bite.
I now introduce my favourite dish of the evening: Ancho Chili Shrimp with couscous, and green Romesco sauce. Typically, the sauce is made with a nut (almond, pine, or hazelnut) and red pepper base originating from Catalonia, Spain. Paired with the couscous, this sauce has a wonderful texture, and the nuttiness lends itself to the smoky heat of the shrimp. Highly recommended
Decided to try some sweeter flavours, so I ended my meal with the Crema. The easiest description to give this dish: Spanish creme brûlée, topped with candied orange, and raisins. Don’t expect the rich custard-like base of the French version, as crema has a lighter consistency. A nice sharing dessert.
Croqueta de Jamon featured Albacore tuna with pickled peppers and lemon aioli.
Below is Barsa Taberna’s take on an Old Fashioned.