Depending on your priorities, Cometa Pla is a wine bar with small plates or a tapas bar with wine.
Our group of three was there for the food, but both menus maintain a focus on organic and local ingredients. The small, rotating wine list highlights organic Catalan producers, and the ever-changing food menu is sourced mostly with local ingredients, particularly vegetables and grains.
The cozy spot, which opened last summer, is on a hard-to-find side street in the touristy Gothic Quarter of Barcelona, where inventive, reasonably priced restaurants are the exception.
The restaurateur Jaume Pla has aimed to change that. His two other establishments in the area, the upscale Restaurant Pla and the casual Bar de Pla, both serve more traditional Catalan fare. Cometa Pla, the newcomer, is an offspring that ventures further outside the box.
Cometa Pla’s interior, which comprises two floors, is casual, warm and contemporary. During our visit, boxes of wine were stacked near the entrance of the 60-seat space. The open kitchen takes up nearly half the downstairs space, adding to the intimacy.
The chef, Giuseppe Padula, is from southern Italy and has worked in Barcelona for nearly a decade, including several years at Restaurant Pla. He said his aim was to present sophisticated, fresh food. “Some healthy or vegetarian places make what I think are boring dishes,” he said. “I do original, high-technique cooking but in a less-formal setting.”
Of the eight items my group shared, most were extraordinary, with a couple of so-so interlopers. Marinated eggplant was smooth and tangy, while a grilled eggplant dish was paired with smoked tofu and covered with a confetti of crunchy nori seaweed. A leek confit, given a beautiful red hue by beetroot and orange juice, was cooked for hours in rice syrup, and could have doubled as dessert.
Nonvegetarian options were equally impressive. Perfectly grilled octopus, traditionally served with potatoes, came with Jerusalem artichoke cream, lentils and roasted garlic. And we all went wild for the shredded lamb, braised for 36 hours and served with bulgur and a fennel purée.
To drink, the rebel among us started with a Belgian-style beer from a local microbrewery. We sampled several wines — Cometa Pla’s philosophy is taste first, then choose. Our favorite red (a syrah) and white (chenin blanc) were from Tuets vineyard in the nearby Tarragona region.
Just before we left, our server appeared with a bottle of the chef’s homemade limoncello, pouring us a sweet Italian send-off after a memorable Catalan meal where every dish is served with a dash of creativity.The New York Times