Review: Casal de Catalunya

This time last year, I was high-tailing it out of town and leaving on a jet plane to stuff my face as I frolicked across Europe. Our trip to Paris, Barcelona, Lisbon and the Algarve was one of those indulgent moments in time where my stomach could not keep up with my eyes. Not surprisingly, I particularly loved Barcelona and its combination of quality, variety and sheer awesomeness of all of the food there. While dealing with a gnawing craving for a tortilla de papa and some slices of pan con tomate, I hopped in a taxi and headed for the next closest place to BCN in BA – Casal de Catalunya.

Situated in the heart of San Telmo, El Casal de Catalunya is a mix of cultural center, museum, and restaurant where you can shove food into your face until you pass out on your plate. A lovely place, really. Walk past the beautiful wooden doors and get ready to feast.

I kind of like that the dining room has a club de barrio feel, with bright lights and tons of tables – all full of friends, families, and cool old people – though the acoustics could use a little tweaking. This isn’t a spot for a quiet romantic dinner, so be ready to raise your voice and just go with it. Luckily the service is above average for Argentine standards, and the waitstaff is patient, helpful, and attentive.

We started off with the little bites brought out as soon as you’re seated. I would have eaten 10kg of those olives

Between the four of us, we ordered three appetizers – the famous tortilla de papa and some rabas, followed by grilled whole prawns. HELLO happiness. Where to begin? A tortilla can either be really, really good or really, really bad. Pretty sure the one they serve up here is the best in town (slash, the world?). One tortilla serves up four hefty portions, so this could easily be a main course. Nice and crispy potatoes on the outside, ooey gooey egg on the inside, without that egg-y taste that comes with being overcooked and gross.

Ok, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system. The grilled prawns were amazing – nice and meaty, and served with a nice garlicky oil for classy dunking. I was impressed at how many came with the order – very generous. True story: I love sucking prawn brains. There, I said it.

Those were amazeballs. By the time I got to the rabas, I was in need of a breather, but they were quite good – not at all rubbery, nice and giant, and served with tons of random sauces.

For mains we went with paella and a filet of grouper with potatoes. Both excellent, but to be honest by this time I was semi-comatose so you might want to take that into account. The paella was overflowing with goodies and was presented very well. The grouper didn’t last long – it was eaten up within minutes – and was cooked to perfection.

I probably should have been cut off at this point, but I’m a glutton who sees things through til the end. Dessert. Amazing. The menu has tons of choices and they’re all equally tempting. Rather than go for the classic crema catalana we went balls to the wall with a mousse de turrón – nougatty fluffy goodness. I didn’t have high expectations but then I ended up fending off my dining partners’ spoons so I could have more. I’m a good friend, I know. We washed it down with some peach liqueur just for good measure.

If you haven’t been to Casal de Catalunya, make plans to do so. You can order a WHOLE SUCKLING PIG (cochinillo) when you make your reservation. I will be eating that little porker next time, for sure. The service and the ambiance stand out from other BA haunts, and you’ll be just a stone’s throw from the Gibraltar for a postprandial g&t – not a bad deal.

El Casal de Catalunya
Chacabuco 863 – San Telmo
Mondays from 8pm, Tuesday – Saturday 12-4pm and 8pm to close, Sundays 12-4pm
4361-0191

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