With two restaurants’s worth of food in our stomachs, we made our way to Rambla. Like Tomatito, this place had an open kitchen, but retained the cool sophistication of Las Flores.
The first item in our list of orders was the spherical olives marinated in extra virgin olive oil. Following in the style of Ferran Adria’s liquid olive, the glistening green spheres burst with bright and earthy brininess as well as a slightly acidic undertone. I sat there transfixed, wondering how such a tiny ball could pack so many delicious, complex flavors.
Following the spherical olives was the strawberry gazpacho, which was poured from a chilled glass bottle into our bowls. The addition of strawberries gave the soup a cheekily pink color that was too adorable to not Instagram. “Hurry up – your soup will get cold!” my friend chuckles. The soup was every bit as refreshing as the classic version, but with a sweeter, fruitier quality. I devoured it quickly, eager to taste what else was in store.
We started moving into the heartier dishes, namely the chipirones (baby squid) with white beans and the crispy sucking pig with mustard and bok choy. The former was served the way in the best way possible: en su tinta (in its own ink). Like the octopus skewers and the gambas, there was nothing for inferior components of the dish to hide behind. And happily, there were no sub-par ingredients here. The ink gave off that sea-like flavor that had eluded me in the previous restaurant, and the beans helped to cut through the textural monotony of the baby squids and carry more of that briny taste. Eaten with some of Rambla’s crusty bread, it was easily one of my favorite dishes of the day.
The crispy sucking pig was served on top of a bed of bok choy and caramelized onions with marble potatoes and candied nuts, and was arranged in such a way that it resembled a little piggy. The skin (my favorite part) was wonderfully thin and crisp, while the meat underneath was flavorful and paired well with the bok choy. Meanwhile, the sweetness of the onions complemented both the porkiness of the meat and the robustness of the mustard sauce.
Now, what are three lunches without any dessert? For dessert, we had crema catalana, or at least, Rambla’s version of it. Unlike the ones made in Spain, this one lacked the iconic burnt sugar topping and the creamy, custardy mouthfeel. Rather, it had a cloud-like texture – similar to that of a poached meringue – and biscuits below the base, though it still carried that same iconic cinnamon and citrus taste. And here was where I was conflicted: as much as I loved the flavor of it, I found myself wishing for a custard instead of a meringue.
To top of a day full of Spanish food, we chowed down on one of the most iconic Spanish sweets in the world: churros con chocolate from La Lola, Rambla’s churreria sister. The churros were quite large, but retained the fried, crunchy exterior, even when dipped multiple times in the warm, sweet chocolate. It was the perfect end to three-restaurant Spanish lunch.
Like Tomatito, Rambla likes to experiment with the typical elements of Spanish cuisine, but it still carries an obvious reverence for the traditions of its mother cuisine. It presents Spanish flavors in a new and refreshing way that you wouldn’t find in an abuela’s home kitchen. Eating there and in the other two restaurants was like being introduced to a new side of the cuisine I grew up with, be it the more playful and modern side like in Tomatito, the twisty traditional side like in Las Flores, or the more experimental side like in Rambla. And while nothing will ever replace the Spanish food that my family gets at home, there will always be something fun and exhilarating about trying – and enjoying! – the food from these three restaurants.