Inopia: Food for the People
An attempt to translate the word inopia from Spanish to English yields results such as “to be daydreaming” or “to not catch on,” or even, “cloud cuckoo land.” The word also holds the name for a restaurant in Barcelona, Spain, run by Chef Alberto Adria. If his name sounds familiar that’s because he’s also the pastry chef for his brother, Ferran, at the world-famous El Bulli 100 miles northeast of Barcelona. El Bulli boasts a wait list of two years while Inopia’s wait list is usually only two hours, or less if you arrive early, before most Spaniards even think about dinner.
But what about the food? This is a no-frills tapas bar, meaning harsh fluorescent lighting, barely any seating, and service without fuss. While it sports a decidedly modern twist, it pays homage to traditional Catalan tastes. Add this to the moderately priced menu and it equals food for the people, but also food that has been given great care and consideration. All fried foods are done so only with olive oil. Many canned foods, especially fish, are hallmarks of the tastiest of tapas and here can account for some surprising delights. Let’s eat.
During the taping of “Spain: On the Road,” featuring Mario Batali and Gwyneth Paltrow, they visit Inopia. What could be so great about the malaguena olives that Gwyneth adores? These green olives possess a sharp taste and chewy texture with bumpy, hard pits specific to olives grown around the southern seaside town of Malaga. In short, they’re worth the hype. Potato chips fried in olive oil are served in the bag, just like you’d buy at a convenience store, reinforcing the no-frills aspect. They might also ruin you for regular potato chips. The menu heavily represents the anchovy and sardine -- fried, grilled, or canned, however you like them. The roasted red pepper served on toasty baguette is soaked in olive oil and topped with garlic. Its simplicity allows the rich flavors to register immediately on the taste buds.
I should mention that Alberto likes his sugar, almost as much as he likes his anchovies. The fried eggplant cubes are topped with molasses and a bit too sweet for my liking though wonderfully executed. Patatas bravas, a Spanish specialty, wowed me to no end. Fried potatoes topped with a spicy tomato sauce and aioli, this dish poses a guilty pleasure to which I would return again and again. As sumptuous as that plate tasted, the crowning glory was a medallion of cheese grilled and topped with honey and truffles. The bold distinction of truffles overpowered the creaminess of the grilled cheese, but isn’t that what it’s supposed to do? If you order this, ask for an accompaniment of bread which is baked fresh on site and has a crispy, grainy crust and soft chewy inside. More fun than it should be, the fruit course consisted of sliced pear soaked for one full day in red wine and spices. The pear was not quite ripe which allowed the wine to make this fruit perfectly supple.
Since I mentioned red wine, a bit about the drinks. Inopia’s table wine is highly drinkable and well-priced. Other wines are outstanding and also reasonably priced for their quality, though you won’t find any wine lists here. A display case at the end of the bar shows bottles and their prices. Moritz beer is on tap, which is an age-old beer brewed right in Barcelona, and, since this is a bar, a wide array of mixed drinks are available.
For dessert, the chocolate ice cream was served, not surprisingly, in a small container similar to what you would find in the freezer section of your grocery store. Of course it was creamily delicious. Digestifs ranged from a red peach punch to a vodka caramel, both boozy enough to leave me thinking that yes, indeed, Inopia is a lot like being in a daydream.
Inopia Classic Bar
phone from U.S.: +011.34.93.424.52.31Added on February 21, 2010