There’s an area of Poble Sec where pinchos, tapas, and montaditos strive. For those unfamiliar with the terms, theses small dishes native to Spain focus on quality of ingredients and presentation over quantity.
If you are looking for cheap bites to eat, you can take a stroll down Blai street and indulge in pinchos or pinxtos. This street is packed with pincho restaurants from left to right, each restaurant offering their own outdoor terrace. Each window display showing various little tapas on bread by the stick from 1 to 3 euros.
So what sets montaditos apart from pintxos? From an American perspective, not much difference really because in our eyes, it is a cured or cooked ingredient served on bread. However, it is not until I tried the montaditos from Quimet & Quimet that I understood the difference in flavors regionally between the basque country and Catalonia.
Montaditos are basically open face sandwiches normally served with cured meats or pickled vegetables drizzled in olive oil. At Quimet & Quimet, the price for montaditos are a little higher than traditional ones outside of Barcelona, but the quality is superior.
When you first arrive at the entrance, your eyes will be drawn immediately to the ceiling admiring the walls of different Spanish wines and spirits; all available to purchase. The space itself is small with no room for sitting.
These typical bars are not lounging places, they are there for the purpose of having a quick bite and then continuing your journey. In the case of my group, we had to wait a bit, but it gave us the time to observe the details of each wine. The staff is accommodating and because they work in two shifts, restaurant goers only have 45 minutes to eat and admire the place. For a standing only restaurant, this is more than enough time.
Once we were settled inside, I was throwing caution into the wind after getting a glimpse of the menu. So many different unique montaditos and tapas offered from smoked fish to aged cheeses. The tables are so small at Quimet & Quimet that you can only order about four dishes at a time, so of course we ordered the pan tomate before taking advantage of the fish plates.
Most pan tomates you encounter are just baquettes sliced horizontally with tomato flesh and garlic spread on top. Here you are getting a thick spread of concentrated tomato with a dollop of olive tapenade and a pinch of oregano. This ain’t your average pan tomate.
Our first fish tapas was stuffed calamari topped with smoked tuna marinated in olive oil and balsamic vinegar; in this plate, you are popping the whole body of the squid in your mouth releasing all its natural flavors from the sea. It’s an acquired taste but my mouth was doing a happy dance regardless. We had this along with their most famous menu item, the sea urchin topped with a teaspoon of caviar. This is a real “melt-in-your-mouth” dish.
Next was the lubina or sea bass, served with pickled peppers and roasted bell peppers. This is one of those dishes where you must put a little of every ingredient on your fork. The smokiness of the fish is balanced with the sweet flavor of the bell pepper and the pickled piparra pepper adds another kick to every bite.
For the next round of tapas, we decided to try some of their different spreads. One dish that stood out was a tapas consisting of fois gras, wild mushrooms, and a sweetened chestnut served with toast.
Now that it is October, more chestnut stands are present like hot dog stands in New York. I guess roasted chestnuts aren’t just for the holidays, they make for a great compliment to any savory dish.
For those who want to avoid the meat montaditos and are a fan of regional cheeses, then look no further than the Torta del Casar. A strong-tasting cheese made with sheep’s milk, this montadito is served on top of toast with again, one sweet single chestnut. Since the chestnuts are roasted and then sitting in a sweet fluid, they become so tender that you can easily cut through them with a teaspoon. This is the perfect dessert tapas to celebrate an end to a good night of eating.
Unfortunately, I did not take pictures of all the dishes described because I was so eager to try them, so that will have to be an adventure you seek when you come to visit.