Finding the Perfect Balance at Marina in Barcelona
The northeast corner table at Marina, the terrace restaurant at the Hotel Arts in Barcelona, is a perfect geranium-enfolded vantage point for admiring the sweep of the Mediterranean through Frank Gehry’s transpicuous giant goldfish, a honeycomb waterfront sculpture designed not to block the view.
Enjoy it while you can, because once the food starts coming at this mid-March to November open-air lunch secret (dinners from June through August), you’ll be otherwise absorbed.
Marina (Coastal Food) is the full name of this easygoing multi-cultural space offering Mediterranean cuisine with Asian and Peruvian overtones. The myriad wait staff, uniformly ecstatic about something, is so attentive that the slightest flicker of an eyeball will bring them running, and they’re all so elegant and international that you’re tempted to beg them to sit down and tell you all about themselves.
But the tastes are the thing: A trilogy of ceviches from Peru, Acapulco, and Nikkei sets the tone. The Peruvian ceviche has baby scallops, sea bass, red onion, sweet corn, chile pepper, and coriander on a slice of sweet potato; Acapulco offers king prawns, sea bass, guacamole, tomato, and Cholula sauce; and Nikkei is wild salmon, tamarind, sesame, and smoked tuna. Each seems to catch the essence of its origins: one upland, another tropical, and the third Eastern.
The crab roll alone (deep-fried soft shell crab with lettuce leaves, jalapeño peppers, and tomatoes) is worth coming for, while the wok of beef tenderloin with shiitake mushrooms and bay vegetables is little short of wondrous: perfectly cooked chunks of beef, rare and melt-in-your-mouth tender, with a medley of baby vegetables ranging from bean spouts to carrots to snow peas, onions, and bok choy.
Tuna tartare is another nod to the East, Mediterranean blue fin tuna sprinkled with trout caviar on a bed of wakame, a Japanese seaweed and favorite miso soup ingredient, with seaweed bread.
The menu is organized into zany categories including “Boxes & Buckets” (buckets of boiled shrimp, boxes of grilled octopus, woks of beef), “Comfort Zone” (Caesar salad, club sandwich, steak-frites), “Bubbles and…” featuring Laurent-Perrier Brut (no, not H2º) with a mixed grill of calamari, scallops, clams, jumbo shrimp, razor clams, and lobster, or “B-Tween Breads” with wagyu hamburgers, tacos, wraps, Peking duck buns, and BLTs.
Desserts feature creations from Jordi Roca of the famous Celler de Can Roca brothers of 2013 and 2015 “Diners Club Best Restaurant in the World” fame (and also our No. 5 best restaurant in Europe). “Rocambolesco,” Jordi Roca’s line of designer ice cream emporiums in Madrid, the Costa Brava’s Platja d’Aro and (soon) Barcelona, offers a chocolate ice cream with a crust of nuts and crunchies, while Marina’s own cheesecake on a Graham cracker-like crumble topped with blueberries and peach jelly should probably be against the law.
The wine list is short but distinguished, ranging from a 60€ ($68) cava from Catalunya to a 350€ ($397) Dom Pérignon Champagne. The Rioja, Penedès, Pla de Bages, Burgundy, and Pays de France DOs are all represented, and the house white, Miquel Jané Sauvignon Blanc, is crisp and elegant.
Mixologist Diego Baud, who hails from Colorado, contributed a closing cocktail called “Smokin Razz.” It’s made with a Barcelona-born gin called Gin Raw and Lapsang tea with dried raspberries and a chamomile blossom floating in the surface froth — a fitting post-script to a beguiling blend of tastes and textures from around the globe, and a perfect analogy for Barcelona’s increasingly intercultural and intercontinental amalgam of cuisines.