Adventures in Gastronomy, Barcelona

The restaurant is unconventional in every way imaginable. First, there is the circus-themed decor. The juxtaposition between the carnivalesque environment and the sophistication of the cuisine is disorienting. Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed getting knocked out of my comfort zone and letting go of expectations.

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Nothing is what it seems at Tickets, the recent outpost from the brothers Adria. I ordered the olives, a specialty of the house, to start. I don’t know what got into me but I really was expecting an olive.

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What came to the table was a spectacular stretch of imagination. Wobbly little greenish orbs were presented in a mason jar and served table-side on silver spoons. As the jar was taken away, we were instructed to take the dish in one mouthful. The “olive” slid of off the spoon and onto the tongue only to erupt into the purest expression of olive. It had almost no texture, a little wet but not quite liquid, cool but not cold, unctuous but not oily. It was as if air had been rendered solid and infused with the essence of olive. Our server returned the jar three times to present two more “olives”, each increasing with intensity. The last “olive” was served with a dish that I thought was going to be some sort of octopus but turned out to be a kind of crisp that was probably vegetarian even though it tasted like salt cod.

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Next, I was presented with three oysters. I could have asked for only one but my two dining companions don’t enjoy raw shellfish. I felt obliged to make up for this flaw in their characters. The oysters weren’t exactly raw, probably still not safe for pregnant women or people with immune deficiencies, but the bivalves were somehow infused with complimentary flavor profiles.

The first was was floating in an emulsion of Caipirinha and passion fruit. The second oyster was presented in an “oriental” vinaigrette, which I’m guessing was composed of Hon Dashi and rice wine, perhaps a bit of ponzu and yuzu, and topped with flying fish roe. The final crustacean was served with its “pearl” and sea lettuce water. Next time, I will try the oyster without oyster.

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The razor clams to follow arrived on a plate with grooves full of small pebbles on which the clams were arranged with what appeared to be a very light romesco sauce and lemon “air”.

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The next course was lightly smoked and marinated mackerel, fresh from the market, and baby shiitake. It was dressed with a vinaigrette that was both sweet and sour, with a confit of onion, not unlike the sarda in saor you find all over Italy.

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My dining companions wanted something a bit more “normal” to end the meal before the dessert courses so we ordered the Tickets version of a classic Catalan dish, pà amb tomàquet, otherwise known as crostini with tomato pulp and anchovies.

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Okay, so let’s talk dessert. I, of course, couldn’t resist something called “worms”. It turned out to be a gooey little marshmallow grub, charmingly presented on a live plant in a tin pail with apparently real dirt. I can’t be completely sure it was real dirt as I was not allowed to try to eat it. I am still wondering if I missed out on a bucket full of crushed Oreo cookies.

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The next dessert was my favorite, a black currant meringue with yogurt ice cream.

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The hot and cold chocolate fritters were favored by the rest of the table.

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The dessert courses ended with a very refreshing cheesecake with lemongrass sorbet.

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There were other desserts, much wilder and more adventurous, such as a cotton candy tree and something that looked like moss on a log with rocks. I have no idea what that was and it was gone before I could ask my neighbor if I could photograph it.

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