If you’re a foodie headed to Barcelona, you’ll want to dine at Tickets Bar, the tapas restaurant which opened last year on a crescent-shaped street corner in the theater district. Upon your arrival, a gracious doorman dressed as a ringmaster accompanies you to your table in a winding open room. This is just the beginning of a dining experience that mimics theater, designed to entertain guests and to surprise the senses.
The alchemy of molecular gastronomy transforms traditional tapas fare into inventive dishes with new tastes and textures. The extensive menu allows you to select your meal from more than 50 bite-size (or slightly larger) portions of appetizers; meat, seafood and vegetable tapas; candies; and desserts.
Our waiter, Javier, cautioned us against impulsively ordering too much. Some of our favorite dishes included mini air bags of manchego cheese and Iberian ham that explode in your mouth; intensely flavored, spiced tomato tartare served with bread crisps; tangy scampi cooked Andalusian-style; a sugar-and cinnamon-coated Catalan cream roll; and a warm almond and apricot sorbet cake. A couple next to us picked sumptuous candy cotton (another dessert) off a miniature tree set on their table.
Many people arrive here, of course, because they have heard about three-star Michelin chef Ferran Adria, whose restaurant elBulli in Roses, Spain, closed in July 2011. For this new venture, the two Adria brothers (Ferran and Albert) teamed with the three brothers from the Iglesia family of Rias de Galicia, a classic seafood restaurant in Barcelona. At Tickets, they’ve poured all their creative juices together in an ultra-high-speed blender to gin up a gastronomic experience unlike any other.
The setting is informal and whimsical. Walls are covered with show posters, and strings of theatre lights and Coca-Cola can mobiles dance overhead. Busy food prep stations line the walls of the room and the chefs are part of the performance. One last treat: Chef Albert Adrià is likely to be on the floor mingling with diners.
IF YOU GO
The cost is about $65 per perso (including a glass of Cava, which is good value for the money. Reservations must be made online three months in advance; no email or phone reservations accepted (ticketsbar.es). Tickets Bar is at Avinguda Paral-lel 164, 08015 Barcelona.
[This article previously appeared in the Chicago Tribune on September 18, 2012 and in the Hartford Courant.]