Barcelona - Kiosko Universal + Cacao Sampaka

I arrived in Barcelona around 9 am local time. Too early to to check into my hotel, I dropped off my luggage and headed straight to La Boqueria. I wandered around for a bit, still in a post-travel daze, snapping photos as I tried to decide where to eat. I'm not ashamed to admit that I got a little lost  I bypassed El Quim and the famous Pinotxo Bar for a seafood specialist, Kiosko Universal.

My target - razor clams. They first pinged my food radar on an episode of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations. It was the Ireland episode, but though I ate some truly fantastic seafood during my trip to Ireland in 2008, I didn't get the chance to try any razor clams. So basically I'd been dreaming about these clams for over four years, with no real point of reference for how they would or should taste.

At Kiosko Universal plates of ruby red shrimp, shiny squid, exotic mushrooms of all shapes and sizes, line the counter. You'll want to order everything, especially after you take a peek (and a sniff) at what your neighbors are eating. When you finally make a decision, it's as easy as flagging down a waiter and pointing towards whatever you've chosen.

That first morning, I ordered the razor clams and a plate of seasonal mushrooms. Both cooked quickly on the flat top-plancha, arriving dressed in a simple garlicky parsley oil and a handful of crunchy fleur de sel. Razor clams are a textural delight, some bites toothsome and sweet, others briney and rather squiggly. If you enjoy mussels, oysters, and the like, you'll surely love razor clams. But if you're generally not a fan of bivalves, I'd give them a miss. And the mushrooms? Tender and a little funky, the sea salt added an unexpected crunch to every few forkfuls.

In the midst of all the seafood I took a break for some gourmet hot chocolate at Cacao Sampaka. The rich, velvety drink is nothing like American hot chocolate. It's thick, a bit spicy, and not too sweet. While churros are a traditional accompaniment in other parts of Spain, in Barcelona you dip melindros. Perfect for dunking, the spongy finger cakes arrive still attached to the parchment paper they baked on. Alongside the cafe, Cacao Sampaka sells all sorts of chocolate-y treats, I splurged on gourmet chocolate bars and curious pots of chocolate jam to gift friends and family.

That first breakfast was good enough to bring me back for more. On my last day in Barcelona I wandered back to la boqueria for one more feast. This time I ordered the mixed seafood plate. Loaded with bright pink shrimp, thumbnail sized clams, tender squid, and spindly langostines, everything was the epitome of fresh. I made a mess tearing into the shrimp and langostines, making sure to sop up the juices with a round of crusty bread. But my favorite parts of the plate were the medium sized clams which were just barely cooked and oh so tender and sweet.

On Wednesday I'll (finally) bid farewell to Barcelona with a few more shots from my walks around the city. You may have noticed I've started to participate in Wordless Wednesdays, partially hoping to get back into the groove of posting regularly, also as a way to share some shots that don't quite fit into entries on food and restaurants. But even after six posts on Barca I didn't get around to writing about my meals at Taller de Tapas (excellent patatas bravas and fried padron peppers) and Mussol (I loved the grilled vegetables dunked in plenty of allioli). Both restaurants were good, just not quite up to the standards of the rest of my meals. I'd love to visit Barcelona again, but I've got oh so many more places on my to-visit list. I'll be back after the holidays to tell you all about my recent trip to London!


  1. As for the Cacao SAmpaka, never again! How come they dare to charge you 11,50€ for 8 slices of carpaccio still frozen floating in oil, a coffee and a water when the menu (first, main course, desert and drink) cost 8,90€?? Thieves, not to mention the service, worse impossible...!

    1. Aww, I wonder if we went to the same cafe. I don't think the one I visited had many savory options. I ordered at the counter so I didn't really even interact with the servers. The hot chocolate and melindros I tried were delicious, though certainly not cheap.


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