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What you need to know for 11/20/2017

Barcelona raises the bar for Mediterranean fare

Barcelona raises the bar for Mediterranean fare

Mediterranean cuisine is a melting pot of cultures from Europe, Northern Africa and the Middle East.
Barcelona raises the bar for Mediterranean fare
Barcelona's Salmon Ala Barcelona is a treat for the eyes as well as the palate.
Photographer: Beverly Elander

Mediterranean cuisine is a melting pot of cultures from Europe, Northern Africa and the Middle East. Barcelona takes the best and adds an American twist, resulting in spirited and enduring flavors.

The proportions of an older, converted house make a medium-sized dining area that easily fits about a dozen roomy tables and comfortable chairs, with high arched windows on three sides, one with a sunny southern exposure.

The terra cotta decor on walls, ceiling and tile floor and hand-painted murals evoke the warm climate of the Mediterranean. Upstairs is private and outdoor dining.

Barcelona’s menu promises flavor. The clam and mussel appetizers feature garlic, olive oil and marinara sauce. Chorizo sausage is cooked with red onion and roasted red peppers for another savory dish. Escargot has all those and adds pesto.

Barcelona Mediterranean American Restaurant

WHERE: 1192 Western Ave., Albany, 438-1144

WHEN: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday; 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday; 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday; 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday

HOW MUCH: $77.05 before wine, tax, and tip

MORE INFO: Credit cards: Master Card, Visa, American Express, Discover. Children’s menu. Parking in rear, after 5 p.m. in Key Bank lot. Reservations recommended. Not wheelchair accessible.

Entrees classify as vegetarian, chicken, pasta, carne and, the largest category, seafood. Clams Genovese, seafood fra diavolo and seafood Alfredo sneak into the pasta category, so there’s even more. Barcelona may have added an American touch, but don’t expect chicken Parm, embrace chicken paella.

I’m a sucker for caprese salad ($9.95) and Barcelona’s is classic, with thick balsamic vinegar, fresh basil strips, green drizzles of olive oil and fresh mozzarella. The tomato wasn’t stellar, but the salad pleased both eye and palate. A glass of summery, grassy Monkey Bay Sauvignon Blanc helped it go down.

Mary enjoyed the same wine with her caracoles ($8.95) — snails with garlic, olive oil and roasted red peppers in a white wine pesto sauce. “The pesto really clings to the snails,” she remarked, pleased. Toasted bread soaked up the delectable sauce. With a twist of orange slice, red pepper and green pesto on toasted bread, it looked so inviting I almost ate a snail.

Next was an interval with divine fresh hot rolls and a homemade tapenade-olive oil dipping sauce. They know how to stretch a meal into a delightful evening at Barcelona.

Blue was the only color of the spectrum absent from the salmon a la Barcelona ($22.95), pink meat topped with spinach, chopped tomatoes and white beans in marinara sauce, saffron rice studded with peas, the sauce a deep rouge, alongside a wonderful array of buttered vegetables: peppers of every color, two kinds of squash, carrot, celery, broccoli. The rich salmon flaked easily and was delicious. The variety of ingredients added to the appeal of the dish.

The drunken swordfish ($22.95) tasted mild but stood up to the heat of the chunky tomato-based sauce with onions and tomatoes cooked long for depth of flavor. The medium-grained saffron rice was firm and I marveled at the variety of vibrant buttered vegetables. Barcelona gets points for handsomely presented food.

What could be better than milk-soaked layers of homemade dulce de leche? Add chocolate. Rarely tempted by chocolate desserts, I couldn’t pass this up. Midnight dark sodden layers sandwiched creamy chocolate mousse that elicited an “Mmm” with every bite. A few drizzles of coconut and chocolate syrups didn’t compete with the flavor, which was not too chocolaty or sweet.

Tartufo is made easy to eat here, sliced into colorful, dark-chocolate coated wedges. Chocolate, pistachio with chopped hazelnuts and cherry ice cream had a heart of maraschino. A sharp knife, quick drizzle and a few dabs of whipped cream made for a beautiful dessert.

Service was polished and professional throughout the night and the meal was nicely paced.

The tab for our food, before wine, tax or tip, came to $77.05.

Barcelona raises the bar for flavor and was consistently outstanding. Why eat ordinary food when the same fuel and calories can be magical?

Many restaurants charge the same reasonable prices, but pass them up and really get yourself something good to eat.

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