Cata 1.81 – Barcelona

Cata 1.81 - Barcelona

After days of indulging in stick-to-your-bones traditional Catalan fare, The Astronomer and I were ready to sample some of the region’s modern cooking. We hoped to visit Albert Adria’s Bar Inopia and Carles Abellan’s Comerç 24 to satisfy this portion of our culinary itinerary, but we were turned away when we visited. A note to travelers similarly guided by their stomachs: you’ll have to arrive early to get a seat at Inopia, and for Comerç 24 you should make a reservation several weeks in advance.  It’s also best to visit the city on Tuesday through Saturday to avoid limited restaurant options.

Cata 1.81 - Barcelona

Fortunately, a great dining alternative is never far away in a food-centric city like Barcelona. After a bit of research, The Astronomer suggested that we head to Santi Olivella’s Cata 1.81. Slightly larger than a shoebox, Cata 1.81  is a pioneer of modern tapas. The restaurant is also known for its stellar wine collection and market-influenced menu.

The dining room is bright white with even brighter orange accents. I loved that every table was carved out in the center to create a sturdy well for wine bottles, decorative floral arrangements, and even the bread basket.

Cata 1.81 – Barcelona

The Astronomer and I were served a mountain of olives during our two and a half week stay in Spain, but none tasted as delicious as the ones served here. The language barrier kept us from getting the full story on how they were made, but we had an inkling that soy sauce was the secret ingredient that took off the olives’ characteristically briny edge.

Cata 1.81 - Barcelona

Our first official course was the foie gras (9.50). Sandwiched between the lightest, thinnest, and crispest of toasts, the foie gras tasted delightfully smooth and rich. The coarse sea salt atop the bread and the stewed figs on the side offered the perfect complements. I have yet to encounter a cold foie gras preparation paired with salt and fruit that I did not adore.

Cata 1.81 - Barcelona

The Astronomer could not resist ordering the croquettes with chicken and onion (2.35€) from the “snacks” portion of the menu. The two deceivingly simple looking nuggets were golden on the outside and silky like you wouldn’t believe on the inside.

Cata 1.81 - Barcelona

I insisted on ordering the Spanish tortilla (5.25€) because we had yet to enjoy one during our trip. This one contained slices of potatoes and was perfumed with black truffles.

Cata 1.81 - Barcelona

It didn’t feel right ordering an army of tapas without including our old favorite, patates bravas (5.50€). Smothered in a spicy tomato sauce and sprinkled with chives, the discs had a most luxurious consistency.

Cata 1.81 - Barcelona

The Astronomer and I weren’t sure what to expect when the orange-tinged bowl of  macaroni with white chocolate and “sobrasada” (5.95€) arrived, but after one fork-full, we were sold on the the savory prowess of white chocolate. The black salt expertly tempered the sweet and smooth sauce.

Cata 1.81 - Barcelona

My least favorite dish of the night was the Morel mushroom risotto (9.05€), mostly because its flavors were mild and its consistency was soupy. I think I would’ve appreciated it more had it not followed such a bold and innovative dish.

Cata 1.81 - Barcelona

The final savory course was an Iberian sirloin with strawberry gel (9.50€). It turns out that strawberries and pork go quite excellently together, especially with a confetti of dehydrated berries in the mix.

Cata 1.81 - Barcelona

Our first dessert was a crispy nest topped with honey ice cream resting in a pool of orange blossom and pistachio (5.95€). I appreciated the dish’s unique combination of flavors and textures, but didn’t fall out of my chair with excitement over it.

Cata 1.81 - Barcelona

I felt the same way about our second sweet, “crunchy balls” filled with yogurt and honey (4.95€)—it was deliciously different, but not mind-blowingly so.

Cata 1.81 provided a glimpse into Barcelona’s modern Catalan scene, but I left the city feeling like I’d barely scratched the surface of the genre. Next time around, I’m hitting the streets from Tuesday to Saturday because there’s nothing sadder than a closed restaurant and an empty stomach.

Check out the photos from our inedible Barcelona adventures: exploring Antoni Gaudi’s Park Güell and La Sagrada Família cathedral, scoping out the Medieval Barri Gòtic, and attending an FC Barcelona fútbol match.

Next stop: San Sebastian!

Cata 1.81
Valencia, 181
08011 Barcelona, Espana
Phone: 93 323 68 18

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9 Responses to “Cata 1.81 – Barcelona”


  • This looks amazing. You will definitely have to go back to Barcelona for Comerc 24, but you did make it to Tapas 24 which I thought was just as great (without the fancy pants vibe!).

    San Sebastian – my favorite eating town in all of Europe! Get the cheesecake (tarta de queso) at La Vina in the old town!

  • I’m so enjoying reading these posts. We didn’t make it to this restaurant but it looks and sounds wonderful — (the macaroni with chocolate sounds most intriguing). One could spend 6 months in Barcelona and not hit all the food spots.

  • i think the foi and spaghetti dish is what i wouldve wanted to try:)looks like ur having tons of fun!

  • Looks like some really fantastic progressive tapas! That’s interesting about the suspected soy sauce spiked olives. Mmmm I want to try!

  • How cool that you’ll always be able to look back and relive your honeymoon through your blog posts about all the fabulous restaurants. Like a scrapbook of food memories! :)

    Soy sauce olives, huh?

    Who would have thunk it?

  • What a great spread! We have a tapas bar opening here soon, so I have high hopes for some good morsels. Croquettes are magical little things.

  • the iberian sirloin with strawberry gel sounds amazing. i had to look again to make sure it wasn’t dessert. the strawberries can be so deceiving!

  • Oh that foie gras sandwich looked good, and so does the Iberian sirloin. Ummm Iberico pork?

    Barcelona, one day!

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