Story and photography by Manos Angelakis
Els Tallers Restaurant
C. Rentadors, s/n Siurena
Comudella de Montsant (Tarragona)
Catalonia has a very high concentration of Michelin starred restaurants, perhaps more than any other location on Earth. Even small, local restaurants create delicious food that does not need Michelin stars to be mouth watering.
Tiny, very isolated, perched on the top of Triassic limestone cliffs that fall straight down to the river below, the picturesque medieval mountain town of Siurana has now only 32 permanent residents. The kingdom of Siurana and its impenetrable fortress was the legendary residence of the last Moorish King of Spain and the last Moorish stronghold in Catalonia. The view from the top of the cliff is spectacular!
Siuranella, a 6-room boutique hotel, the only hotel in town, has a marvelous restaurant “Els Tallers” on-premises that is fairly reasonably priced offering cuisine of Tarragon with a contemporary twist. According to the ViaMichelin guide, this restaurant is worth the drive if you are anywhere in Priorat; and I concur... I would personally say, it is worth the drive if you are anywhere in Catalonia.
Depending on the season and local produce availability, menus change practically daily. That does not mean more exotic creations using ingredients non-native to Catalonia are not available. According to the owners, “no-one, however much of a regular they may be, will have eaten the same dish twice, unless that dish is specifically requested”.
During my recent Catalan trip, we dined there one evening trying the “Creative” menu with paired wines and, I will admit, I was smitten!
The idea, as I understand it, is to offer high level food in a really casual space. And they are succeeding.
The amuse bouche was cold, steamed octopus with a garlic/citrus aioli. Octopus is a favorite of mine and I enjoy this seafood, whenever it is served.
Then came green olives stuffed with aspic, a rather unusual preparation for something as mundane as pickled green olives.
The next dish was also very creative and rather unusual; flan of foie gras topped by sautéed slivers of pineapple, garlic and nuts, in a curry and citrus sauce.
I love fish and seafood, so any time a fish dish shows up as a course, such as Els Taller’s “Cebiche”, salmon slivers and king prawn slices with cucumber and yogurt, topped with salmon roe and cilantro, bathed in yogurt and olive oil, I’m very happy.
I was even happier when the next course, monkfish (Anglerfish) in a cauliflower creamy sauce and black olives, was presented.
But then came the picture perfect pičce de résistance. After clearing the dishes, the waitress appeared with a large piece of white plastic that was laid on the table. The pâtissier came and using the plastic as a canvas, created a beautifully abstract edible creation in front of our very eyes.
Have you ever seen an inspired painter work? I have, and the work of the pâtissier was indeed as beautiful as any abstract painting I have seen created live. Let’s not forget that Joan Miró and Salvador Dali were both celebrated Catalan surrealists.
The wines the restaurant has are all sourced from the regional denominations of Montsant and Priorat. Our Mas CoLLET Blanc was a blend of Garnacha Blanca and Macabeo from Montsant. It paired beautifully with the fish and seafood, as it is lightly aromatic with a medium/high acidity. The red was 100% Garnacha Tinta, a world-class wine from the Priorat D.O. Both are available in the US, and are logically priced, the red averaging under $18 retail and the white under $12.
It was another memorable dinner in one of Spain's most culinary adept areas.
For more on Catalonia see the Costa Daurada, Catalonia story.
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