Any place that serves sparkling wine in a coupe instead of a flute automatically shoots to the top of my list. It's a silly little detail, sure, but drinking out of a coupe feels special and a little glam and I really kind of love it. It always makes me think of Marilyn Monroe trying to seduce Tony Curtis in Some Like It Hot. This is to say that our late dinner at Bar Raval on Friday got off to the right start.
I loved the space, a sort of sprawling corner restaurant on Görlitzer Park with bar stools and high tables in one corner and cozy wooden tables and banquettes in the other. Daniel Brühl, the half-Spanish, half-German actor of Goodbye Lenin fame, is one of the owners. Rumor has it that he's been to every tapas bar in Barcelona.
Our Spanish waitress was a doll. She was a little harried, but so professional and friendly and kind. She even apologized when a drink got delayed - something that hasn't happened to me (the apology, not the delay) since I left New York.
With our drinks came a complimentary little dish of olives, juicy, salty, green ones that we found ourselves fighting over. When we placed our order for tapas, we mostly stuck to the classics: pa amb tomaquet, tortilla (with vegetables), boquerones, croquetas, salt cod fritters and my very favorite, pimientos de padròn.
The pa amb tomaquat was lovely - the bread was toasted over an open flame and charred in places, the crumb was nicely soaked with tomato and olive oil. I could have eaten the whole plate (though I'm a bread-and-tomato fiend, so take that with a grain of flaky salt). The pimientos were piping hot and crunchy with salt. It's hard to get these wrong, isn't it? Max got three out of the four spicy ones, poor guy. The spicy one I had was so hot it made my eyes water.
The tortilla looked pretty classic, but when we sliced into it, we realized that the eggs were a thin casing around a juicy filling of mixed vegetables: zucchini, peppers, eggplant, potatoes, onions and mushrooms. It was incredibly filling. It wasn't the most ethereal tortilla I ever had, and Max said he would have preferred the classic potato tortilla, but for a change, it was nice.
The salt cod fritters were greaseless and crisp. And the ham-and-cheese croquetas, two to an order, were fantastic. One of those with a glass of cava and you'd have yourself the very best bar snack. I could barely finish mine - they were quite filling and rich with hammy flavor.
The boquerones (marinated white anchovies) were the one misstep in our meal - they didn't taste particularly fresh.
Still, it was one of the nicest dinners we've had out in a while. I loved the atmosphere in the restaurant, which was relaxed and jovial at the same time. We weren't really hungry at all by the end of dinner, but couldn't resist ordering the molten chocolate cake for dessert (so dated, it's true, but so delicious, too).
It was flavored with a little too much orange for my taste, but this didn't stop either one of us from practically licking the plate. The filling to casing ratio was sort of perfect and the hot chocolate mixed with the cold vanilla ice cream on the side, well, there's a reason this cake took the world by storm. And this was a darn good version of it.
When we got our bill, we were given two complimentary shots of an herbal liquor that tasted like fennel. Max was driving the car and I was so happy with our meal that I found myself enthusiastically drinking both. We walked out into the Kreuzberg night feeling pleasantly aglow with food and drink. It was such a good night.
Lübbener Strasse 1
(030) 531 67 954