Bodega Sepulveda

With one notable exception, Team Mago’s Barcelona contingent is composed of early risers who also retire early, at least by Mediterranean standards. Thus we rarely eat at Barcelona restaurants in the evening, contenting ourselves with a meal at the Love Shack du jour (see Making the Most of the Markets forthcoming this fall) or hitting several tapas bars in front of the nocturnal Catalan wave front that begins to build between 8 and 9PM. Based on multiple advice vectors, however, we felt we owed our readership a review of Bodega Sepulveda, a traditional restaurant in the Dreta de l’Eixample district. Fulvia and Diodorus Siculus insisted on 8PM reservations, but when we showed up with Fulvia’s inveterate punctuality the restaurant was locked up tighter than a drum.

Bodega Sepulveda

Address: Carrer Sepúlveda, 173, Barcelona 08011 Spain— Get directions
Website: bodegasepulveda.net
Telephone: +34 933 23 59 44
Hours of operation: Monday-Friday 1PM to 4:30PM and 8PM to 1AM, Saturdays 8PM to 1AM, closed Sundays
Get more info....
Rostra rating: 4

20130417_DSCN6790We beat a hasty retreat to a nearby bar (forget swinging a dead cat, just think supine feline in Barcelona and you are at an establishment that serves food and alcohol) where we consoled ourselves with several rounds of canas and pinxos. Returning to Bodega Sepulveda at 8:30PM we found  the establishment, open, bereft of clientele, and the staff just finishing their evening meal. Upon entering, Diodorus Siculus felt duty bound to inform the hostess that we had made 8PM reservations. Rather than causing any embarrassment, this pathetic admission of non-locality served to break the ice with the entire staff, who laughed openly and made a great show of leading us to a randomly selected “specific” table in the culinary echo chamber.

Mago tip: Make dinner reservations no earlier than 9:30 PM in Barcelona on week nights and a half hour later for weekends. Unless a) you like eating in a deserted restaurant (or joining in the staff meal, something I have always wanted to do but have yet to figure out how) or b) plan on dining at one of the many tourist traps in the Barri Gotic, in which case you need to immediately abandon this website (as well as all hope of a good meal).

The space is cozy and narrow with dark paneled wooden walls and exposed beams in a burnt sienna plastered ceiling. Tables are placed close together and fitted out with soft yellow table cloths and napkins. There are downstairs and upstairs rooms, the latter evidently the preferred haunt of locals, who begin arriving around 10PM and keep coming past mid-night. A very nice feature of the  restaurant’s topography is that it mitigates the noise level even when the place is full.

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The extensive menu is categorized by ingredients rather than sequence with the exception of tapas, thus salads, eggs, fish, meat, assortments, toasts, sausages, and cheese. We settled on a selection of tapas, followed by two fish offerings and two meat offerings. Pebrots de padrón were the first to reach our table (like most good Catalan restaurants, food came when it was ready rather than idling in heat light purgatory). These small fried green peppers with flaked sea salt were a very good example of this ubiquitous tapa dish: bitter, grassy, salty with a touch of char.

Cuttlefish and porcini croquettes

The next deployment was cuttlefish croquets–black flavor cylinders with a micron-thick crust surrounding unctuous inky squidiness. The flavor derived mainly from the ink, but the ground up cuttlefish imparted a subtle textural differentiation from a regular potato croquette. The cephalopod taters were accompanied by croquetes de ceps, which were similarly shaped but endowed with a crust twice as thick that gave way to a very creamy center redolent of woodsy porcinitude. The two treatments contrasted splendidly, ably demonstrating the Catalan mastery of this culinary sub-discipline.

Being murphy mavens, Team Mago also ordered patates Sepúlveda.  The house tubers were parboiled and then run under a salamander topped with cheese, anchovies, and herbs. What’s not to like about oily, salty, umami goodness?

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The fish dishes were mussels cooked with dry sherry and  xiperones (baby squidlings) one of the off-menu specials that evening.
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The latter dish was ordered at the insistence of Lucullus who has vowed to construct a temple to Addephagia in Northwest Montana should the Sicilian goddess of gluttony bless him with calamaretti at least once a week while he sojourns in the Mediterranean. So far she has not disappointed. This evening the xiperones were served with small white beans cooked with slivers of mild garlic and then drizzled with aged balsamic vinegar and emerald-green olive oil. The exquisitely fresh half-pinky sized squidlets were perfectly cooked; delivering a tender, but not mushy, texture and a subtle marine flavor. The mussels were also expertly executed, fresh, and juicy. Their sauce made excellent soppage for the pa ab tomaquet, which was good but not great, consisting of split circular loaves cut into half moons.

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The meat offerings were a tour de force of old-school Catalan cuisine. First came meatballs with ceps. The chef wandered by as Team Mago was experiencing multiple simultaneous foodgasms and declared the dish a five star treatment, which it most certainly was. Laden with large thick slices of fresh porcini from the nearby Pyrenees, the sauce was pure Bacchus 30 weight–viscous and silky with an intense mushroom flavor, made with stock, cognac, dense olive oil, and large parsley stems. The meatballs, made from 100% veal with minimal binding, were sweet and permeated with cep flavor.

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Lucullus was prepared to declare the meatballs best in show until the “paradise tripe,” as the waitress termed it, showed up. Long considered the true test of a kitchen tripe, unlike most organ meat is low in saturated fat, contains useful levels of vitamin C, is highly nutritious, and reportedly acts like offal viagra, increasing one’s libido fourfold. But the major reason that Lucullus orders tripe when dining out with Team Mago (or just about anyone else) is that he usually gets to eat all of it himself. Bodega Sepulveda ‘s version of reticulum heaven was a tripe stew made with Jamon Iberico bone stock, smoky paprika, bay leaves, and chunks of calf’s head. The tripe was meltingly tender and the rest of ingredients were quite delicious, although this came at the cost of significantly jacking up its overall cholesterol level. Lucullus opined that it could have used a bit more heat as he hoovered the plate. In keeping with a TMI ban designed to differentiate the MagoGuide from the MagoScrolls, this review will refrain from any reportage concerning the efficacy of tripe’s priapic properties, which may have manifested themselves later in the evening.

20130417_DSCN6878Dessert took the form of Gelat de fromatge Idiazabar, essentially pecorino romano ice cream: salty, sweet, sheepy cheesy, with a creamy mouth feel. Diodorus Siculus was appalled. “Cheese ice cream is a provocation!!” he declared, and then launched into a rant in idiomatic Sicilian that was apparently a disquisition against “Molecular fucking stupid things!!” Lucullus and Fulvia both  thought that it was wonderful, innovative, and could have been further improved with a drizzle of artisanal balsamic vinegar. Diodorus Siculus declared us culinary provocateurs in league with Ferran Adria and all his evil ilk.

20130417_DSCN6872We drank the house red, a 2006 Rioja from Vina Alberdi, Crianza. It began with a nose of damp earth and mushrooms. The mid-palate of leather and game developed some dark plum and blackberry fruit as the wine breathed, ending on a long, satisfactory finish. It paired perfectly with with the food.

Mago tip: Don’t take the dollar option on credit cards. This year’s credit card scam involves being offered to settle the bill in either Euros or dollars. If you read the fine print on the tiny piece of paper you sign, however, you will discover that the conversion rate should you choose to settle in dollars is far less favorable than the rate you will get from your bank/card originator if you settle in Euros. Go figure.

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Website: bodegasepulveda.net
Telephone: +34 933 23 59 44
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Get more info....
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Morgan Hart

MagoGuide.com was launched in 2011 as a website and virtual storefront to showcase Patti's software and Morgan's content. Dedicated to slow travel, culinary excess, and ripping good yarns, MagoGuide is the digital scriptoria for the Mago Scrolls, Morgan's historical fiction series about the Punic Wars in general and one Mago of Syracuse in particular. Although Morgan has written a great deal of non-fiction over the years in the form of specialized journal articles, book reviews, op-ed pieces, and (his personal favorite) the most unpopular coffee table book in the history of the planet, he always viewed himself as a happily frustrated novelist. Get more information about Morgan's novel and travel writing at our Products page.