The atmosphere at this tiny restaurant, which, at the time of our visit, is ranked #1 of roughly 7,000 restaurants in Barcelona on the UK version of Tripadvisor, is very pleasant, welcoming, and all-round friendly. It felt more like a supper club than a restaurant, in a good way.
We were immediately asked to say hi to the chef in Uma‘s kitchen and it was there that the first three amuse-bouches were served, while the chef explained the tasting menu of the day, a bit about how he will prepare each course, and a warm offer to come back to the kitchen anytime during or after the meal. These amuse-bouches were called ‘Acto I – la cocina (the kitchen)’ and included an interesting concoction called ‘Thai & Pina Colada’.
We were led to our table. Soon ‘Acto II’ kicked off with ‘los snacks – El Sur – Torta de camaron, yuzu, mayonesa de placton, semillas de cilantro y pimenton (The snacks – The South – Shrimp cake, yuzu, mayonnaise with plankton and coriander & pepper seeds)’, a mix of mild, reasonably harmonious flavours.
This was followed by ‘Smoke – yoghurt ahumado del mediterraneo (Mediterranean smoked yoghurt)’, which in our view mainly tasted of smoke, and strongly so. Perhaps more for the real adventurers of this planet, not for us. There was another dish served in two glass cups, for which we couldn’t decipher our notes afterwards, but which obviously didn’t leave any lasting impression.
‘Acto II’ continued with ‘los snacks – New Potato’, which we felt was bland, and ‘los Snacks – Ham-On (a pun!) – Croqueta de jamon y su consome (ham croquette with chicken soup)’, which was the first dish of the night that found its way into our hearts. Lovely, strong, flavours. More of this, please, we thought. We also liked the way the soup was served in a miniature coca-cola look-alike bottle with a straw.
However, the next dish already brought our hopes down: ‘Acto III – Stones – Falsas piedras con salsas especiadas: curry, comino, mostaza, hinojo (False stones with spiced sauces: curry, cumin, mustard, fennel’. If ever there was a more unnecessary dish, then we don’t want to know. Why?! Why have a meal that consists of actual pebble stones mixed with very similarly looking fake pebble stones, made up of glazed baby potatoes? To try out the four sauces that came with it, the glazing was not conducive. Besides, the four sauces weren’t that exciting anyway, and literally tasted very much of the respective spice they were labelled after, but not much else. It also seemed a bit cheap to recycle the ‘New Potatoes’ idea in one and the same taster menu just one course further down along the line.
The next two courses, in contrast and very much to our relief, were quite delightful and showed some real cooking skills: ‘Acto IV – La tierra – Mushroom Cream Soup or similar’ and ‘Acto V – El Mar – Love Soup – Sopa de gambas, coco, lima y cilantro (Seafood soup with prawns, coconut, lime and coriander)’.
‘Acto V – El Mar Azafran – Vieira con arroz cremoso al azafran del Libano (The Safron Sea – Safron scallops with creamy Lebanese rice)’ was truly impressive in terms of both taste and texture. The meat dish that followed, was so bland that we forgot to take notes on it.
‘Acto Vi – Los Postres (the desserts) – Green Day’ seemed again more about showing off looks and being mysterious, rather than about taste.
The final ‘Acto VI – Los Postres – Bomba de Chocolate (Chocolate bomb)’ at least was a spectacular finish.
We had an interesting and at times very pleasant evening with overall 15 ‘courses’ if you count amuse-bouches and the likes. We do concede that all the ingredients were of the best quality, as far as we could tell, and clearly a small place like this will not get any major discounts from suppliers. All the same, at €70 per person (not including wine or service), we felt that the evening was rather pricey. We’ve had taster menus at Michelin-starred places for that kind of money (on special offers, admittedly, and with only 7 to 10 courses, if you were to count amuse-bouches and petit-fours). Those restaurants have much higher running costs, sometimes having a staff-to-guest ratio of 1:1 and nearly always being located in expensive, high-cost premises. 2.75 out of 5 in our book. We won’t be back.
All the best to the chef, though, who seemed like a really nice, knowledgeable, infectiously enthusiastic, and very skilled professional… and a brilliant businessman, obviously, managing to fill his restaurant with mostly happy customers every evening at these prices! Tip to the hat.
Following a recommendation from a local, we will most likely be back to this part of town (the area next to Sants train station) during our next visit, in particular to Plaça d’Osca, a square close to the station where some of the best tapas bars are supposed to be (and a market).