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Quimet i Quimet – A lot has been written about this place, and it’s all true: the tapas are primarily derived from the canned, jarred, tinned, wrapped, preserved and pre-made rather than the fresh, the place is impossibly tiny (two micro-tables plus a tiny wraparound counter) and packed to the gills with locals and a few undaunted tourists, it’s standing-room (more like jostling-room) only, and the beverage options are rather staggering. One simply enters and carves out some sort of nook, orders something from the counter, selects a beverage from the wall (higher shelves are reached by a proprietor bearing a long, hook-like device), and gets on with the noshing. More food? More wine? Drinks? Just keep ordering…as long as you can avoid the desperate stares of those waiting for your square foot of real estate. Such a complete lack of pretension or artifice is barely to be believed in these modern times, yet this closet-sized eatery could hardly be more successful.

To the extent that Catalan or Spanish have been necessary in restaurants, I’ve mostly been the one to struggle and mangle my way through. But tonight, I’m too sick and dazed (especially after three successive trips to the pharmacy, with new symptoms to describe each time) to torture another proprietor with my incoherent mumbling. Theresa takes over, finding that French works better than English in the absence of the correct local dialect. A nearby cluster of Russians reaches the same conclusion, but far as we can tell, everyone else is speaking Catalan. That has to be a good sign, right?

[bread products][fish counter]
[busy counter][crowded room]

Instead of choosing our own tapas, we let the owners feed us, and though the various takes on smoked and preserved fish (with and without accompaniments) are brilliant, the highlight is a stunning plate of Spanish cheeses…the best we’ve yet tasted. And let’s not forget the small dollops of caviar, which has become an unattainably expensive luxury back home; here, they’re practically given away.

The price for all this elbow-tucking bacchanalia? Just forty-one euro, and we’re both stuffed and suffused with a warm, alcohol-induced glow. (Also, the medication might be at work.) But while it’s an unquestioned bargain, it’s more important to note that this is simply a terrific restaurant. (10/06)


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