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El Quim (La Boqueria) – We arrive at this tiny countertop in the immediate aftermath of some terribly bitter argument between the proprietors. I mean, seriously bitter; each looks like they may strike the other at any moment. Our order is taken, and our meal delivered, in near-silence from both. I suspect that, later, someone will end up with a stick of chorizo lodged where it probably shouldn’t be.

In the interim, we enjoy our bites and snacks. This tapas bar specializes in more adventurous (for the international palate) selections, which makes sense as the ammoniated and rather nauseating aroma from the massive display of organ meats immediately behind us casts a restroomy pall over the culinary aromas. No offal aficionados, we decide play it fairly safe…and taking chances with my digestive system is probably unwise at this juncture. Asparagus are fresh, vivid and inspiringly simple, albóndigas are rich pillows of meat, and sardines in an escabeche are small and terrific, but the supreme dish is a plate of intensely-flavored eggs with ham. I think Universal is a little bit better (it’s certainly friendlier), but then again it’s hard to properly judge while arbitrarily avoiding at least half the menu. (10/06)


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