Alta Taberna Paco Meralgo
100% Bellota Ham with Pan con Tomate
Ham and Chicken Croquettas
Cuttlefish ‘Obama’ Croquettas
Tempura Seasonal Vegetables, Teriyaki, Sesame
Steak Tartare Montaditos
Foie with Nut Bread and Apple
Local Octopus and Candied Onions
Grilled Kid Goat Cutlets with Onions and Carrots
Tap de Cadaques with Rum and Cocoa
Torrejas de St. Teresa
Making the midday drive from Valencia to Barcelona, a 3.5 hour trek up the coast that costs about €45 without accounting for gas, it was just past 21h00 that a party of two set out looking for dinner, almost every reputable Tapas Bar in town unfortunately packed with several “reserved” tables sitting empty, the eventual decision to wait it out at Alta Taberna Paco Meralgo based on a quoted wait of “a few minutes” that actually stretched on for just under an hour.
Without doubt a well established favorite of locals as well as tourists, the double-sided bar and ever-evolving menu scrawled in the window seeing lines from 20h00 opening until a post-midnight close every day of the year save for Christmas since 2002, Alta Taberna is part of the Grup Olivé Restaurant Group, their holdings entailing five spaces with the one on Carrer de Muntaner easily the most popular.
Proposed as a Spanish menu with Mediterranean and Catalan influences, the kitchen-centered room constantly in motion with guests in-wait given the choice of being constantly bumped into indoors or standing in streets full of cigarette smoke, those who either have the foresight to make reservations or who are willing to wait are eventually granted seating at either the bar or one of several high-tops, the menu available in both English and Spanish a sprawling list of Meats, Cheeses, Sandwiches, Vegetables and Desserts.
Minimal in its decoration, chalkboard specials, painted brick walls and mirrors the only thing to distract diners from a bounty of ingredients on display amidst a room whose decibel level occasionally reaches alarming values, it was just past 22h10 that seats were allocated at the bar in front of a young bilingual Female, the decision to order in courses encouraged and eventually entailing fourteen plates served over the course of nearly two hours.
Truly a sight to behold, the multitude of stations all working at a rapid pace to churn out plates for what must easily be seventy guests at peak times, it was not long after ordering that the first round of food arrived, a plate of Spain’s famous Acorn-fed Iberico Ham and Bread brushed in Tomatoes simple and pristine while three types of Croquettas were all creamy and delicious, though one does wonder about the naming of a Squid Ink-packed version after America’s 44th President…
Heavily focused on fried bites, the Tempura Vegetables with Teriyaki an out of place dish that was both unimpressive and overpriced at €8.10, those choosing to stick to Spanish classics will be well-rewarded by the crispy Potatoes in spicy Mayonnaise while the Omelette of tiny shrimp is served as a delicate net containing only enough Egg and Flour to hold it all together.
Offering items on Bread as “Montaditos,” the Steak Tartare a bit too finely chopped and thus mushy amidst Yolk and Herbs, another great three-bites was found in the seared slice of Duck Liver served atop Nut Bread with poached Apple, the flavors sweet and unctuous and a great lead-in to the tender Octopus served in the cooking liquid of Paprika and Onions.
Rounding out savories with Goat Cutlets in Onions and Carrots, the plate appearing to be little more than Bone actually hiding several ounces of lean and nutty Flesh, it was with the a la minute Mille-Feuille sold out that dessert instead included a tender Sponge Cake completely soaked in Chocolate and Booze alongside hot Crema Catalana and an unattractive but outstanding slice of Torrejas that was golden on the surface and sweet with the texture of Condensed Milk within.