Barcelona Restaurant Reviews

Dos Palillos

June 12, 2015

A rollercoaster ride through Asian cuisine, powered by passion and steered by a world-class chef.

Intro (you can skip this bit if you just want the review…)

The word ‘passion’ is greatly over-used when it comes to cuisine. I blame the melodrama of the various international iterations of Masterchef and its ilk. If contestants aren’t constantly on the verge of tears when discussing cooking then they tend to be swiftly booted out. Everyone is oh-so-passionate: about peas, about pans, about whatever the public want them to be.

But sometimes passion is the only word that fits. Sometimes food geeks get together and let their enthusiasm fly, and it’s great. Instead of seeing people’s eyes glaze over with boredom, they get to see them light up, and the mutual enthusiam sparks a great conversation.

Before I ate at Dos Palillos I had the pleasure of interviewing chef/owner Albert Raurich for nearly an hour and I defy anyone to describe the man without using the words ‘passionate’ or ‘enthusiastic’. The interview, which will be published elsewhere (stay tuned), was held in his workshop, across the road from the restaurant in the 16th-century Casa de la Misercòrdia, a former orphanage for girls. Soundtracked by the whirrs, pings and clatters of his team as they worked on new dishes, and surrounded by a multilingual library of cook books, we started talking about Dos Palillos but ended up discussing  diverse aspects of Japanese history, culture and cuisine.

Albert Raurich Steve Tallantyre Dos Palillos

It was an education – and a timely one. I’ll say it now, so you know what’s coming in this review: I am almost completely ignorant when it comes to Japanese (and indeed most Asian) food. I love it; I’ve eaten lots of it; but I’m no expert.

When I write about Spanish, Catalan and other European cuisines, I’m confident that I have a basic understanding of the influences and intentions behind the dishes. There will always be more to learn but I do have the knowledge to describe what’s going on. But Asian cuisine? Nope. It’s like being a total beginner all over again. I enjoy, or don’t enjoy, dishes, but I have little insight. Shoshin (see conclusion). Great fun, but it makes writing a review a difficult job. Nevertheless, here it is:

Review: Dos Palillos (C/ Elisabets 9, 08001, Raval, Barcelona; Tel. (+34) 933 04 05 13; Metro Catalunya).

The first thing you see at Dos Palillos is Albert Raurich’s old chef’s jacket. Signed by his former colleagues at El Bulli, it is now encased in glass in the wall of Dos Pallillos, which is itself encased in the Hotel Camper.

Albert Raurich Jacket Dos Palillos

Photo (c) Dos Palillos

This restaurant in the late-medieval heart of Barcelona is a product of the World’s Most Famous Restaurant, the relentless engine of invention that powered Catalonia’s rise to prominence on the world food map. Raurich was its chef de cuisine from 1997 until 2007; the right-hand-man of Ferran Adrià.

He left to open his own restaurant after falling in love with Asian cuisine. The result, Dos Palillos, is really two restaurants in one. The bar in the entrance could be any other in Spain; a marble serving counter for beer and tapas. But in this case, the tapas are entirely Asian. This isn’t a fusion of Spanish and Asian cuisines; it’s a fusion of their eating styles.

Bar Dos Palillos

Photo (c) Dos Palillos

Further inside, a Japanese-style bar sees a few privileged patrons sitting on surprisingly comfortable high chairs around three sides of a square. This wooden bar surrounds the kitchen where cooks prepare dishes in front of them. It’s a performance, a theatre, and it’s superb.

Dos Palillos inside

Dos Palillos has a Michelín star. Given the weight that the publication puts on service and comfort, the fact that a restaurant where you sit elbow-by-elbow with fellow diners at a high bar has won its accolade should tell you about the quality of the food.

Dos Palillos serves two tasting menus, at €75 and €90 respectively. There are also three wine pairing options (€30-€50) with additional selections in the different price bands. The longer of the two tasting menus, the ‘Festival’, starts with a welcome cocktail of orange juice and rum, with a foam of amontilado sherry and it’s worth visiting just for a taste of this.

Welcome cocktail Dos Palillos

It’s the first sherry-infused drink but it won’t be the last; sherries are a speciality of Dos Palillos’s Japanese co-owner Tamae Imachi. She also worked at El Bulli, as a somellier, which is how she met Albert, whom she later married.

The light was poor so the photos aren’t great, but the first dish (fried fish caught in a dried seaweed ‘net’) was lovely. The net dissolves in the mouth like candy floss and little pearls burst to reveal a taste of almond. Served with Gutierrez Colosia fino sherry.

fish caught in the net Dos Palilos

Wild salmon mojama (as opposed to the usual Spanish tuna variety) and salmon caviar, served, with a Sacristía AB manzanilla sherry.

Wild Salmon mojama Dos Palillos

Then came a cloud of aromatic shaved, frozen marrow on a crispy base.  Hints of orange, lots of umami. Truthfully, I had no idea what I was eating, but I loved it. From this point onwards, get ready for lots of vagueness.

crispy canape of bone marrow

There was some white asparagus and shitake, served with an ultra-dry Malkoa txakolí varietal. There was a hint of heat in the sweet sauce, and the expected glutamate glory from the shitake. The only complaint was that the sauce made me want a spoon to get at it all, not chopsticks.

asparagus & shitake Dos Palillos

Then cool asparagus (I think; my notebook sustained child-related damage between this visit and the review…) strips with some ginger heat, citrus freshness, peanut crunch and herbs. Delicious.

asparagus salad Dos Palillos

Thai pork crackling waterlillies dusted with something I couldn’t identify.  Wrap and eat whole. Great contast of textures and delicious. Can I stop saying ‘delicious’ now?

Thai lily pads with pork crackling

‘Dreamy Clouds’ Rihaku Nigori sake, cloudy white as the name suggests, was served to accompany narezushi of sea bass.

Dreamy Clouds sake

Narezushi is the original form of sushi, made by wrapping fish in fermenting rice, giving it a sour, umami taste. Both the sake and the narezushi were really unusual. There were all kinds of new and unusual things happening in my mouth with this one.

Naresushi sea bass Dos Palillos

Sashimi with codium seaweed, radish and wasabi, served with a different sake. Dietary iodine requirement for the week: filled.

with codium seaweed, radish and wasabi, Dos Palillos

Google Goggles tells me that its Kagatobi Junmai Ginjo sake. I’ll take Google’s word for it, but take mine on how it tastes: it’s amazing.

Kagatobi Junmai Ginjo sake

A 2013 Kühling-Gillot Qvinterra Riesling Trocken was served with dried red mullet sashimi and nigiri. The mullet skin on rice formed the nigiri with the flesh sashimi alongside. A really different flavour to ‘normal’ fresh sashimi; less of the sea, more savoury. The nigiri rice is amazing.

 dried red mullet sashimi and nigiri. Dos Palillos

The next dish looked a complete mess but tasted stunning. Fabes (broad beans) cooked in their pods over a charcoal grill with yuba-mochi (soymilk skin) and a sweetened black sesame sauce. It’s seriously good. Smokiness, creaminess, a mix of textures. It’s weird, but in the best possible way. The beans, by the way, come from the nearby Boqueria market. It’s nice to know that it’s not just tourists who go there now!

Fabes Yuba mochi Dos Palillos

Free-range chicken sasami (breast)  and mentaiko (fish roe) served on a warm stone tablet didn’t completely convince. Rare chicken – even if, as in this dish, deliberately rare and perfectly safe – freaks me out a bit. That said, the roe was rich, salty, spice and sensational and the Riesling went with it perfectly.

Free range chicken samasi with mentaiko

2012 Amistat white wine from Rousillon – or Catalunya Nord as it says on the label – heralded an island of steamed yamaimo (Japanese mountain yam) and ossetra caviar, floating on dashi. Oh, oh, oh, it’s good.

Steamed yamaimo and ossetra caviar in dashi

But it’s not as good as the next dish: crunchy parcels of hake cheeks and dried bonito and a dipping sauce, the contents of which I couldn’t identify but was utterly wonderful.

hake cheeks in crispy bonito

King crab shumai dumplings were also very, very good. There’s a lot going on, deep layers of flavours, but they’re so easy to enjoy.

Red king crab shumai Dos Palillos

Even better were xiaolongbao: rich, aromatic and spicy. Served with 30-year-old amontillado sherry, the sort that makes you want to finish the bottle.

Xailongbao Dos Palillos

Amontillado 30 años Dos Palillos

Things took an Indian turn with tandoori pork, underneath which lay a mild but deeply pungent curry sauce. Served with 2012 Mas d’en Gil Bellmunt Priorat.

Tandoori pork Dos Palillos

Cantonese-style iberico pork jowl had a great sweet and savoury balance and a melting texture.

Cantonese-style iberian pork Jowel Dos Palillos

The gorgeous caramelization left a lovely but lingering flavour that was cleared by the next dish: kakigori (shaved, scented ice, done by hand at the table) with yuki peel, served with 2001 Ratzenberger Bacharacher Wolfshohle Riesling Auslese.

Shaving the kakigori Dos Palillos

Yuki peel kakigori

A strange dish; alternating between plain ice and delicious mouthbursts of flavour. Very refreshing, though, and a lead-in to this masterpiece:

Thai style coconut Dos Palillos

There’s a lot going on inside that hairy shell. Lightness, cold, heat, crunch, fluffiness, spice, solid, liquid, and a red curry flavour bomb at the bottom. It’s one of the best desserts I’ve ever had. An absolute knockout.

Orange blossom maki-mochi (presumably a relative of yakimochi rice cakes, but please feel free to correct me…) had the impossible job of following it, but somehow succeeded.

Maki mochi Dos Palillos

Soft, sensual and complex, it was surely the finish. But no…

Chocolate ningyo yaki, a kind of fried doughnut with gin. And here, dear reader, my notes become a type of automatic writing, channeling a tourette’s-inflicted spirit. I don’t think it was JUST the ningyo yaki, more like a combination of everything, but I ordered another one anyway to keep the feeling alive. It is heaven in your mouth. A mix of temperatures, textures, sweetness and acidity.

ningyo yaki Dos Palillos

High praise for a choccy buñuelo I know, but they are seriously good. As was the wine pairing, a 20-year-old PZ from Bodegas Tradición.


I cannot comment on the authenticity of the food at Dos Palillos. I can’t identify at least half of the flavours, nor can I tell you much about the dishes from which these draw inspiration. As a food writer, I feel like a bit of a dud today. As a food fan, however, as a geek who just loves good things, I feel great. I can tell you to go to Dos Palillos, sit down, and have a great time. You don’t NEED to know what you’re eating, You just need to enjoy it. One of my favourite concepts in martial arts, one I’ve held onto my whole life, is shoshin: beginner’s mind. My Dos Palillos experience was shoshin in motion, and I loved it.

Review: Dos Palillos (C/ Elisabets 9, 08001, Raval, Barcelona; Tel. (+34) 933 04 05 13; Metro Catalunya).

Find Dos Palillos on the FoodBarcelona map

Discover other Raval restaurants

Check out my review of Dos Pebrots restaurant by Albert Raurich

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