Thursday, October 6, 2011

Intermission, Entry 3

I love restaurants that know what they're good at. Case in point: Kiosko Universal in Barcelona.

To get there, follow La Rambla away from the port. La Boqueria, the open air market, will be on your left. Walk through the entrance and turn immediately left. Go all the way to the corner of the market and you'll find it . . . but the smell of seafood and garlic will probably lead you in the right direction before then.

The restaurant is little more than an open air kitchen surrounded by bar stools and a couple tables. A bit of action is necessary to get a table -- they're always packed, and stop serving exactly at 4pm. Wave down one of the waiters and tell them how many you have; he'll nod once and file you away in his head. A seat at the bar is best because that's where all the action is.

The menu changes each day depending on what's available in the market. I ordered the octopus (el pulpo), but they were out and so I got the calamari instead. Everything was ostensibly written on an illegible green chalkboard, but I had to resort to the good old "point and nod" method. A few moments later I had some fresh bread and wine and was settled in to watch the food cook.

Preparation is simple at Kiosko Universal. I watched my food thrown straight from the ice onto the grill with a bit of oil and herbs. When the bits of squid had puffed up just right, they were pulled off, set on a bed of fries, and covered in garlic oil, and delivered to my place. It took about as long as it takes to write this to get my food.

And, oh, it was good. Piping hot, but good. Like I said -- Kiosko Universal knows its strength: ingredients. With food that fresh, why do anything else to it?

While I'm talking about things in Barcelona that make me happy, let me say a few words about Catalan women. They're lanky and brown, wear baggy jeans and have long, dark, unruly hair that defies all attempts at control. I'm not sure what gets me more: their eyes, with their wide, black pupils; or their laugh, tumbling down with playful scorn. There's worse things that could happen to a person than be laughed at by a Catalan woman. now I see the reason why Bizet's Carmen and Edmond Dantes's Mercedes are both Catalan.

The Ramblas changes at night. First of all, the guys with the little buzzing noisemakers increase in number about threefold. They also have a new toy -- a little light up helicopter thing that they flip into the air with a slingshot. La Rambla is lit constantly by little blue stars shooting up into the air and drifting back down to earth. Que romantico.

Second, everyone is out in their clubbing attire. This means that men in collarless black suits are parading tall blondes in miniskirts around like show horses. I don't mean to be rude -- seriously, you could measure some of these women's height in hands like a racing stallion. Waistlines up around my collarbone.

Oh, and the third -- the whores and drug dealers appear. The whores are very high class -- you can't even spot them unless they come up and start whispering in your ear (I don't speak Catalan but she made her point Very clear) -- but the drug dealers are pretty disappointing. Mostly they just sit on the curb and hiss at you. "Psst . . . psst . . . psst!" Nice try, buddy. At least in Ibiza they pretend to sell sunglasses . . .

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