THE THIRD AND FINAL ARTICLE IN MY SERIES ON RESTAURANTS IN BARCELONA (CATALANA AND LA XAMPANYERIA). CAN CISA IS THE WINE BAR AT THE FRONT; BAR BRUTAL IS THE FULL-SERVICE RESTAURANT IN THE BACK. -JRS
CAN CISA / BAR BRUTAL
Carrer de la Princesa, 14, 08003 Barcelona, Spain
To my mind, Bar Brutal is not specifically “Spanish” or “Catalonian”, despite that influence in its cuisine. Rather, it falls into a style of place common in recent years: the wine bar, small- or shared-plates restaurant. Common characteristics include: open kitchens; prices around the middle range; a relaxed, more casual atmosphere; professional, yet approachable service; an emphasis on natural wines; and, often, a younger demographic, both staff and clientele.
Chefs in this sort of restaurant have a certain latitude: Not bound to a specific national or regional cuisine, they can pull references from any style or technique that suits the ingredient. Given its location, Bar Brutal has access to spectacular ingredients, and the kitchen here does these justice. This is an extremely talented team.
Brutal serves a concentrated menu of shareable plates that float around the €12-15 mark. When I ate there, on order were a dozen mains, two cheeses, and four desserts. Some examples from that meal follow.
Raw tuna, butternut squash, almonds: Squares of tuna, cool in temperature, sat atop cubes of roasted squash, these warm. A thin puree of almonds, almost a vinaigrette, dressed the dish, along with roasted almonds, roughly crushed. Fabulously light was this plate: the tuna clean, pristine in flavour; the butternut squash, earthy and sweet; the texture of the roasted nuts adding contrasting texture. A confident, well-executed plate of food.
Another stellar fish course – a piece of sea bass, sauteed with skill and served with braised romaine and beurre blanc. Vividly fresh was this fish, and adeptly prepared. The beurre blanc (an obvious French reference and a classic pairing for seafood) felt exceptionally light and well-balanced. This kitchen cares, and knows what they are doing.
Other highlights: chicken liver with romesco sauce and dried fruit (exceptional); spring chicken with green salad; Iberian pork loin with razor clams and white grapefruit. One dish flopped: Hanger steak with pickled carrot and coriander—think bánh mì without the bun—felt uninspired, particularly in the same lineup as the other, excellent plates. Otherwise, everything was excellent and feel free to order with confidence.
Bar Brutal has a lengthy—very lengthy—wine list. We asked for a recommendation and ended up with a stellar bottle of “Col del Sabater” 2011, a Catalonian wine made from Cabernet Franc and Merlot grapes. Medium in body, full of red fruit flavour, extremely well balanced — a knockout. €38 and worth it.
Cin Cisa / Bar Brutal is a blessing, and a must.
Reservations are recommended, although walk-ins are possible early in the evening. Staff are friendly and professional and fluent in English. English menu available.