Cal Pep

Posted on Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009 at 3:51 pm

Chef Jose Garces kindly took the time to send me a list of places to try on my trip.  This was one of those places.


Cal Pep (Placa de les Olles, 8) is an awesome tapas restaurant, located near the waterfront in the hip Born neighborhood.

Cal Pep

I went to Cal Pep with two great girls that I’d met earlier in the day, Josiane from Montreal and Yael from Jerusalem.  We arrived at a packed restaurant so we waited in the doorway until enough space cleared for us to come inside.  Then, we ordered Estrella beers and waited another 45 minutes until room at the counter opened up.

Clams and Tomato Bread

There was no menu; others just seemed to know what there was.  Since we hesitated, our server asked us how many tapas we wanted and decided for us.  Everyone gets a plate of pan con tomate, the local classic of tomato pulp rubbed on bread with olive oil and sometimes garlic.  Josiane and I ordered cava; Yael got another beer.


A bowl of clams arrived first, richly flavored with bits of sauteed bacon and garlic.  As usual, my favorite part of clams is the jus, delicious when soaked up with the tomato bread.

Pescaito Frito

Josiane and Yael

Next came the pescaito frito, a mixed plate of fried seafood, including calamari, tiny shrimp, baby hake and baby bass.  The calamari rings were light and tender.  I easily popped the crunchy little shrimp, shell and all.  The fish, however, fried whole, were a big adventure for me.  I wasn’t quite sure what to do with them.  (I only started to eat fish about six months ago, determined to face my one food aversion before starting culinary school.)  Javi, our stylishly bespectacled server, mimed that I should pop the whole thing in my mouth; he was laughing at me.  However, the two Spanish men sitting next to us said that they don’t eat the head.  Then, Yael, who seemed to have done this before, told me to pull out the little skeleton.  I was thoroughly confused.  I pulled out the little skeletons which came out easily in their entirety.  I used my fork to get as much as possible out of the head and then popped the rest in my mouth.  Whatever I ate, it was all delicious: perfectly fried, no grease, actually light.


For our third tapas dish, Javi brought us the most heavenly tortilla (traditional Spanish omelette) that I can imagine.  This one had potatoes, yes, but it also had tons of pork flavor and was far creamier than any other tortilla I’ve tasted.  I have a feeling there was a fair amount of pork fat hidden in that decadent tortilla.

Cal Pep

Finally, we had a butifarra sausage with white beans, a traditional combination.  This butifarra was very different from the one at La Rosca.  It was almost sweet, with hints of cinnamon and clove.

Cal Pep

The restaurant must have closed around midnight, but people kept coming.  It happened over and over: they would beg to be allowed to stay and Javi would sweetly turn them away.  I felt lucky to have eaten at Cal Pep that night.

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