4amb5 Mujades, a promising new restaurant in Barcelona’s Raval, makes local vegetables the focus of its refined and refreshing non-vegetarian dishes.
Review: 4amb5 Mujades restaurant, Raval, Barcelona
“WTF is ‘4 amb 5 mujades‘ supposed to mean?” was my first question. I felt embarrassed about my poor Catalan vocabulary until I realised that my Catalan wife didn’t know the answer either. We’re clearly not the only ones baffled by this new restaurant’s name, because first page of the orange-covered brochure that’s presented as a menu tackles the subject: It is 18 quartans, 72 mundines, or 288 picotins. Any wiser? Me neither. But at last we reach a result: it’s 405 by 405 steps – an old agricultural unit of area.
Odd name aside, the restaurant has a lot going for it. Located on the booming Rambla de Raval in Barcelona’s old town, it is overseen by Toni Romero from the superb Suculent just a couple of doors away, with up-and-coming young chef Quim Coll manning the pass. Unlike that bistro’s emphasis on lip-smacking heartiness and flavours you mop up with bread, 4amb5 is all about vegetables. Vegetables, but not vegetarianism, it should be noted. Like the similarly themed Céleri, 4amb5 follows the growing international trend of making vegetables the stars of dishes; shining the spotlight on their virtues instead of relegating them to supporting roles alongside animal protein. It’s not about not eating meat; it’s about enjoying something good.
There’s a lot of conceptual explanation for what they do at 4amb5. The menu is divided into four ‘families’ of root, leaf, flower and fruit representing different parts of plants. There’s a fierce emphasis on seasonality and freshness, with ingredients coming straight from 4amb5’s own nearby garden or even the back dining room, where bright pink UV lamps are switched on at night to nurture the herbs and miniature vegetables that line the wall shelves. There’s also a lot of stuff about being guided by phases of the moon and plant astrology, which will either have you nodding in earnest approval or shaking your head in contempt, depending on your tolerance for that sort of thing.
Something we can all agree on is the food, which is extremely good. When I visited, the restaurant was still serving its spring menu (apologies for the long delay in posting this). Please note that portion sizes may not be typical; I was allowed to try smaller portions to sample a wider range of dishes for review purposes. We drank an organic xarel.lo varietal made for the restaurant, which offers excellent value.
A flavoursome cauliflower snack started the meal.
Then subtle seaweed croquettes (€2.50 each).
Fennel salad with apple and creamed goat’s cheese (€9), good balance of temperatures and textures.
A ‘Waldorf’ salad with wow factor.
White asparagus with chard and Parmesan serum. Bright and bold with a strong umami aftertaste.
A dish of grilled artichokes with sticky chicken jus (€12.50) was outstanding. Possibly the best dish of the night.
Aubergine (eggplant) yakitori (€11), classic soy, sesame and sweetness combination with a hint of smoke from the grill.
Jerusalem artichoke with slippery and delicious cod skin pil-pil (€12.50). Smooth, emulsified garlicky sauce with lots of punch.
Gurumelos gyoza (€12). Gurumelos (Amanita ponderosa) aren’t a wild mushroom you see a lot on menus so it was good to find them here. The dish however, was a bit soy-heavy for my liking. Not so much that the well-constructed gyozas weren’t enjoyable, but enough for them to compare badly with other dishes here.
‘Sin callos‘ aka ‘no tripe’ (€14) swaps rehydrated mushrooms for cow stomach as it recreates the classic Spanish dish, with authentic lip-sticking richness coming from a real cap i pota sauce. It’s a difficult one to judge. The mushroom, like the tripe in the original, is mainly to add texture and act as a vehicle for the sauce. Delicious, interesting and fun? Certainly. Better than the real thing? Certainly not for me.
A sweet, fresh palate-cleanser.
Custard with no egg or milk (€5.60). A recipe for disaster? Not at all. The lime cornflour custard is very good and not too sweet, dusted with shaved lime and drizzled with toffee (which contains the only milk used in the dish).
The yuzu buñuelos (€5.50) are even better. Cloud-light pastries with a citrus bite from the yuzu, softened by Tahitian vanilla.
Finally a bite of chocolate with beetroot richness and sablé-style biscuits (€6.50)
This is high-quality cooking. There’s lots of skill on display and a great deal of thought has gone into every stage of the process, from the concept, sourcing and production, right through to the presentation (the custom tableware is beautiful). 4amb5 is also unusual. With the exception of Céleri, which takes a similar concept in a slightly different direction, nowhere else (that I know of) in the city is cooking quite like this. It’s also a very pleasant dining experience. There’s a sense that the young restaurant is still in an early stage of development but there were no new-restaurant slip-ups; service, technique and timing were all without flaw. With such a solid base of fundamentals in place and obvious talent behind it, I am excited to see how 4amb5 develops over the coming years. I could live without the conceptual moon-cycle mumbo-jumbo but what’s really important – the food – is outstanding at this price point. 4amb5 is one of the most promising new restaurants in Barcelona.
4amb5 Mujades restaurant, Rambla de Raval 45, 08001 (Raval), Barcelona; Tel. (+34) 93 681 5093; Metro Liceu or Paral.lel; Open Weds-Mon 1pm-4pm & 8pm-11.30pm
Look up 4amb5 Mujades first time with the FoodBarcelona map.
Check out other recommended restaurants in Barcelona’s Raval district.