Asian food in Barcelona has improved dramatically while I’ve lived here. Thirteen years ago there were a few Pakistani restaurants that ranged from awful to mediocre and a lot of enormous Chinese restaurants that were permanently empty. I have long harboured suspicions that the primary purpose of these businesses was not in fact to sell food but regardless of what happened in their ledgers and accounts, what came out of their kitchens was truly dreadful.
Now the city has fallen in love with Japanese cuisine. Many of those old Chinese restaurants have taken advantage of this: a quick refit and a name change and suddenly they can add 4 or 5 euros to the price of their menú del día or buffet. Just don’t try to order in Japanese. As well as a rise in supply at the lower end of the quality spectrum, a number of good, genuinely Japanese restaurants — as well as some Japanese-influenced Catalan establishments like Topik — have appeared.
Indian and Pakistani cuisine has fared less well. The massive increase in the size of the Pakistani expat community has not yet translated into the appearance of any outstanding restaurants. I’ve yet to find anywhere that even comes close to comparing with the best in England. Bradford’s got Barcelona beat hands down, and it’s not often you can say that.
El Racó del Sikkim is now CLOSED
There are still some places worth exploring. India’s a big place, and its cuisine’s a lot more varied than ignorant Brits like me sometimes think. An area of India that I wasn’t even sure was in India is Sikkim, a tiny state in the Himalayas bordered by Nepal and Tibet.
El Racó Del Sikkim (C/Padilla, 349, +34 934 557 083) is one of those places I’ve meant to try for ages. I wish I hadn’t waited so long.
When we arrived for an early lunch the restaurant was empty but rapidly filled up over the next hour. It’s big enough to take the custom, though and I can’t imagine there ever being a need to book at lunchtime although a phone call may be wise if you want to go on a Friday or Saturday night.
We were served by a friendly Sikkimese lady who explained the menu and a little about Sikkimese food in excellent Catalan. She managed to provide attentive, informative service without being over-fussy; not always an easy balance to strike.
We were having the menú del día at €12.50 but I will certainly be back to try one or both of the two evening tasting menus at around €18 and €28 respectively. Sikkimese cuisine does not traditionally have starters so the first plate out is a pica-pica, a selection of their specialities. The vegetable dish was fresh and flavoursome and the spiced, minced pork with spinach was excellent. The black chickpeas — despite looking like something that might need cleaning out from a rabbit hutch — were delicious.
Next we had momo. If there’s a significant difference between this and Japanese gyoza or the steamed dumplings of Chinese dim sum then I missed it. Steamed pasta parcels stuffed, in this case, three ways: some with mince, some with mushrooms and others with a spinach and fresh cheese mix, all served alongside a cooling tomato and mint sauce and a fiery chilli one. Unlike the stodgy, defrosted gyoza that have become the standard fare across the city, these were delicate and carefully made. The mushroom filling in particular was exceptionally good.
The second main course we shared was a daily special, included in but not printed on the menu, so its name remains a mystery. It consisted of beef ribs cooked with dried whole chillies, onions and tomato. If nitpicking, one could point out that the beef could have been slightly more tender but the outstanding flavour more than compensated.
The basmati rice served here as an accompaniment was unimprovable. Fragrant and tender, it was a small indicator of the attention to detail that seemed to be paid to all the food. The Tibetan bread was authentic and well made but rather too sweet for my personal taste. I love churros and doughnuts as much as anybody, but not to accompany beef…
The Sikkimese don’t do desserts — though the bread could certainly serve as one — but tea (one of the few places to get good tea in BCN) or coffee are included instead.
El Racó del Sikkim is certainly somewhere I’ll visit again, especially as I live in the area. The value for money and service were beyond question and the food — while simple — was carefully made, unusual and enjoyable. Recommended.