Updated: May 4
It is very hard to get a table at this fabled tapas joint in Barcelona, Spain
Three of us to logged on to the EL Barri website every 6pm US EST(midnight Spanish time) for three days (our Barcelona visit was just for three days) to snag a dinner table for six, two months in advance.
Day One: Being newbies at this Tickets reservation game, we got eaten alive by the system and by the thousands of aspiring diners all over the world. We didn’t even get a chance to see the calendar. In a matter of seconds right after 6pm US EST, it was fully booked. For consolation, we were redirected to a page that displayed hi-def, glossy pictures of all the amazing plates at the restaurant that we failed to book and never gonna eat.
Day Two: With Sheryl and Ronnie being battle-scarred veterans of the Funko Pop exclusives game, I was sure that they came into day two of this Tickets challenge with wounded egos and battered pride. After all, they were billed in our circle as the “people who can get things.”
Back in the Funko Pop heyday, they truly acquired some of the most coveted exclusives in the game by devising intricate plans and crafting elaborate schemes to snipe and snag the shiny new Pops. They would wake up at three in the morning for a Star Wars chase item or a Dragonball-Z variant. They never failed in these Funko Pop quests, so when they came up empty on the first day of the hunt for a table at Tickets, they were put on notice.
“These foodies are not fucking around,” they must have thought.
We were more prepared for day two. We made sure we had a fast Wifi connection, some dark roast coffee and sugary treats to wire our brains and make us extra paranoid and anxious (this usually helps the fingers to click faster). We had music blasting, some new age track by Yanni from the 90s to keep us focused. Aside from that, the only sound present was the gnashing of teeth as the clock ticked closer to 6pm US EST.
5:57, 5:58, 5:59… Tunnel vision set in, jaws clenched, fingers glued to the mouse. GO!!
No table available. Fully booked. Utter failure. The page refreshed and started to redirect to the site dedicated to losers. It was too hard to take in. We simultaneously shut our laptops off. I heard Sheryl whisper some words that sounded like she was blaming Verizon for a slow broadband.
Meanwhile, Ronnie was looking at his custom-high-powered mouse that specialized in rapid clicks. Clearly disappointed, he must have concluded that it was probably the mouse’s fault.
All three of us went on our separate ways without saying goodbye. We were down to our final chance.
I was blaming Yanni.
Day Three: Yanni was booted out of the playlist. Instead we had some Judas Priest on – “Hell Bent for Leather.”
At that point, I had given up and accepted our fate. But my two comrades were still in battle mode.
5:57, 5:58, 5:59… as the clock struck 6PM, I heard Ronnie scream, “My mouse is fucking up!!” at exactly the very next second, my laptop froze. Losers once again. But Sheryl…
I glanced at her and she was in complete focus filling up what looked like a form. The fucking genius got in! At that very moment, she threw us a menacing side eye: “You fucking noobs!”
We got a winner. Table booked. Sheryl is queen.
Now what about the food?
We’ll it was indeed high concept gastronomy as expected. He dishes were truly magical and mind-blowing. We did not do the tasting menu like we did at Bodega 1900, instead we opted for ala carte.
• Air Baguette – a tiny, crispy, but hollow baguette wrapped in Iberico Ham. It was like a cross between a baguette and a wafer.
• Olive-S – the Tickets version that was originally served at El Bulli
• Oyster with Charcoal Butter – This one made Sheryl misty eyed. She said it took her back to a time and a place.
• Avocado Pizza – Loaded with King crab meat. Very good.
• Foie Gras Mitteault – An amazing combo of foie gras and charcoal-smoked eel.
• Three-Pigs Brioche – Extremely tender pork belly blanketed by cloud like brioche. The BEST dish in my opinion.
• Crunchy Octopus – Super tender breaded octopus
Desert was an extra experience. After the meal, we were ushered into the desert room, which is decorated by cool giant strawberries on the ceiling and some circus like decors.
• The Rose – Lychee orb on top of a real rose. Very good and unique.
Tickets has a fun-theatrical-circus-like vibe which clearly matches the creativity and playfulness of the dishes. The décor is a great setting but the food is clearly the star here. If there’s a villain in this play however, I would say it’s the service.
Our server was a bit aloof and a tad condescending when we decided to go for ala carte instead of the tasting menu, which she was really selling. It did not help our cause when we also decided to go for Sangria instead of wine pairings for every dish, which again they were selling hard. To me the unsavory service was really unfortunate because the place and the food were really stellar. And since we also tried Albert Adria’s other (lower key) restaurant Bodega 1900, which we loved from food to décor to service, it was unavoidable to make the comparison.
If we got a different server, would it change the experience? I am not sure. But if peddling the tasting menu and wine pairings, is standard operating procedure for servers, then I doubt that it would. But all in all, the whole process from reservation to dinning was exhilarating. But if you want to try Albert Adria’s food, I would push you more towards Bodega 1900 than Tickets.
With Bodega 1900, it’s easier to book so no need to be over caffeinated, sugar high, or fist-bumping on Yanni’s discography.