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A First Visit to ‘Tickets’, Famed/Weird Barcelona Resto

September 7th, 2018 · No Comments · Barcelona, Spain, tourism, Travel

We tried for six years to get a reservation at Tickets, the well-known (and Michelin-starred) Barcelona tapas restaurant based on molecular gastronomy.

We have tended to stay in the Barcelona neighborhood named Poble Sec, where Tickets is located, and when we discovered that … the building seemed to sort of taunt us whenever we walked past, on our way to or from the Placa Catalonia. Never able to get reservations — which are opened up two months ahead of each day, and filled before the day has ended.

What is Tickets?

In simplest terms, it involves small bits of food that do not look like what they taste like. (In the photo, above, that round piece of cheese? Actually cheesecake.)

It involves lots and lots of small dishes — bites, really — with exotic ingredients and perfect presentation.

It also involves the biggest staff I have seen at a not-enormous restaurant. There were at least 20 in the dining room, maybe 25, including a sommelier. For about 30 patrons.

To make a first visit to Tickets without doing some research … is to be completely bamboozled. As I was.

First there was an enthusiastic welcome, through a box-office like entrance.

Then, there was the offer of “tomato iced tea”, which came in china cups.

Menus are distributed, but they bear very little relation to what your food will look like and perhaps taste like.

The menus also do not explain how the system works, and a staff drawn from many countries often has a bit of trouble describing what is going to happen. (As an example, the above-mentioned tea was a sort of incredibly flavorful tomato water, with a few drops of olive oil and a “tea bag” with additional flavors)

Do not show up, as I did, expecting a regular menu of  “starter, entree, dessert” or even regular tapas — which dawned on me, eventually, and left me feeling unmoored.

How was I supposed to order anything when I didn’t know what it might look like?

Finally, still thinking “logically” I ordered three items, after declining to turn over to the waiter the delivery of a stream of tiny plates.

The other three of us left the choices in the hands of the server, who asked about allergies, likes and dislikes;  my order of three things meant only that the whole table got four samples of each of my dishes — while I was left out of the several bites that the other three received.

(Though a friendly relative usually gave me a tiny taste of a tiny plate.)

We had some amazing stuff, like nothing I had ever experienced, and I had to concede that it was very, very good — and letting the staff take care of you is pretty much the way to go, even if it drives up the tab fairly significantly.

(But then, if price is a problem, you probably should never take a seat in Tickets, or any other Michelin-starred restaurant.

One of the semi-controversial aspects of Tickets is that it has two seatings — one at 7 p.m. (that would be us) and another at 9:30.

Two seatings is unusual in much of Europe, and some consumers rebel against it. But if you want the Tickets experience, you have to deal with it.

I must concede that the restaurant’s managers do a very clever job of moving people from their tables at 9:30 and relocating them in the “dessert room” — a Willy Wonka-esque fantasy room in another part of the resto.

It seems like a sort of promotion to be moved to the colorful space, where the Gene Wilder version of the Wonka movie is always on TVs.

All sorts of mini-delights were brought out, so many I lost count. Though I can vouch for an ice-cream sandwich a bit bigger than an Oreo being in there. With speculoos-flavored ice cream inside a stroopwafel sandwich. (There were also a chocolate, coconut and passion fruit cookie-type thing, an astonishing cheesecake that looked like cheese, and mint and strawberry After Eight-style mints).

Do not go to Tickets if you are not prepared to handle a big bill — especially if more than one bottle of wine is involved.

In most of Spain, wine is not expensive. But you will be looking at bottles of at least $50 and probably more like $70. (Which we suppose is normal in Los Angeles, but less so in Barcelona)

But everything is so good, and so unique that a long, slow dinner is a near-inevitability, and that will end with a big check.

After about a dozen bites, which included tastes of tuna belly confit in Iberian ham fat, avocado pasta stuffed with crab, octopus with kimchi aioli and the world’s thinnest sandwich, we were brought a main course to share. There were several options on the menu, but our server offered us a gorgeous Wagyu steak. None of us had tried that before and it was melt-in-your mouth delicious.

Each bite was such a surprise and a delight, and some were so mind-boggling in their illusion, there was no time to worry about whether we had enough food, only what treasure would come next.

We were never disappointed.




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