As white as Brancusi's studio, Alkimia features food by Barcelona's current "it" chef, Jordi Vilà, that's as cool and modern as the decor. From a faux aperitif of sweet-bitter vermouth granita, the meal might progress to snow-white bacalao (salt cod) in a frothy honey-truffle sauce and end with a sculptural dessert of sponge cake with spiced bananas, yogurt mousse and a tart lime reduction. A perfect marriage of style and substance (Carrer Indústria 79; 011-34-93-207-6115).
Best New Restaurants
Colibrí Two alumni of the venerable Ca l'Isidre restaurant recently opened this gracious, tiny six- table place with a market-driven menu of Catalan cuisine. The tuna tartare with mango and scallion oil resembles a Gaudí mosaic; a salad brings together matchstick-thin string beans, oven-dried tomatoes and unctuous bits of pork lips; and the soupy rice strewn with morels and tender rabbit puts risotto to shame. Unbelievably, all this comes out of a kitchen the size of a broom closet (Calle Riera Alta 33; 011-34-93-443-2306).
Comerç 24 In this hip, cavernous boîte in the city's El Born district, Carles Abellánprotégé of legendary chef Ferran Adrià of El Bullitakes an inspired, theatrical approach to tapas: Asparagus stalks protrude from a glass next to a coffee cup of asparagus foam, custom-designed metal cans contain smoked and pickled fish, and egg cartons hold eggshells filled with yolk foam and truffles (Carrer Comerç 24; 011-34-93-319-2102).
Hisop From the slender vases with lipstick-red roses hung on stark white walls to the cooling watermelon-tomato soup, everything here is a fashion statement. Chefs Oriol Ivern and Guillem Pla pull off such risky combinations as potato "velvet"a silky pureewith sausage, sardines and raspberry sauce (it works!). But the dish not to miss is the squab, presented on a triangular plate alongside a granite slab holding five different peppers and salts. As for the candied-olives petit four, it deserves to become the copycat sweet of the decade (Ptge. Marimon 9; 011-34-93-241-3233).
Saüc The tastiest among Barcelona's new breed of intimate chef-driven restaurants, Saüc proves that you don't need El Bullistyle pyrotechnics. Not when the octopus-and-saffron-potato salad is so killingly elegant, the monkfish is cooked with such precision, and the suckling pig has silky flesh capped with skin as brittle as spun sugar. The modest space is brightened by the presence of Anna Doñate, who's as passionate about service as her husband, chef Xavier Franco, is about food (Ptge. Lluís Pellicer 12; 011-34-93-321-0189).
Arola The superstylish Hotel Arts just scored a coup by persuading superchef Sergi Arolaa Catalan who earned two Michelin stars at La Broche in Madridto take over its restaurant, due to open in October. Expect Arola's highly personal take on Catalan food (Carrer de la Marina 19-21; 011-34-93-221-1000).
Best New Pastry Shop
Cacao Sampaka With a brown and beige Japanese-inspired interior and such outré creations as anchovy- or Parmesan-flavored bonbons, Barcelona's newest temple to chocolate is co-owned by Albert Adrià, the brainy pastry chef at El Bulli and brother of chef Ferran Adrià. Sit down for a cup of flavored hot chocolate (perhaps passion fruit) and a chocolate-smeared toast, or pick up a sleek box of exotic confections flavored with herbs, spices or fruit (292 Carrer Consell de Cent; 011-34-93-272-0833).
Bar Pinotxo Barcelona's best breakfast is found right here, by the entrance to the legendary Boqueria market, where Juanito Bayen, sporting his signature bow tie, dispenses tomato-rubbed toast and pristine grilled rock lobster and salt cod croquettes to vendors and hungry shoppers. Café con leche or cavayour call (Mercat de la Boqueria; 011-34-93-317-1731).
Cal Pep Regulars patiently queue by the doorway before opening time to snag a seat at the long counter and order those incomparable fried artichokes or baby squid, and fabulously rich butifarra (Catalan pork sausage) with tiny white beans, foie gras and port reduction (Plaça de les Olles 8; 011-34-93-310-7961).
La Vinya del Senyor Given this bar's location, with tables on Barcelona's prettiest and most touristy square, it's hard to believe the quality and selection of the wines by the glass, the boutique salamis and cheeses, and the addictive coca (Catalan pizza) with candied red peppers (Plaça de Santa María 5; 011-34-93-310-3379).
Senyor Parellada With prices so gentle (most dishes are less than $10), the Catalan specialties so lusty (try the duck with figs or salt cod) and the neotraditional, antiques-filled dining room so inviting, it's no surprise that Senyor Parellada perennially remains Barcelona's most popular spot (Carrer Argenteria 37; 011-34-93-310-5094).