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Bar Raval brings Spanish tapas to Little Italy.

by Jacob Richler

You may think that you know something about fish. Enough, anyway, to proclaim without hesitation that fresh is best, and the tinned stuff – like dry, bland tuna, and mushy, oil-packed sardines – is designed strictly for surviving emergencies, like ice storms, power failures and zombie apocalypses. In which case you would be very wrong. For in Spain, where the fish markets are immeasurably better than our own, many a discriminating consumer values the tinned goods over the fresh. There, a small can of top quality olive oil-packed squid, cockles, octopus or baby eels can easily set you back $40.

Showing you why – at a small fraction of that cost – is just one small part of Grant van Gameren’s latest mission at his beautiful, ultra-authentic new tapas joint, Bar Raval. For a great taste of fish-in-a-tin, try his smoked mackerel in olive oil – which has the best texture and most perfectly judged smokiness of any I’ve tried. The razor clams also thrive by this treatment – as do the sardines. From there, branch out: try the baby squid braised in pork fat, the toast topped with a slice of blood sausage and a fried quail’s egg, drizzled with brightening parsley sauce, or maybe the salt cod croquetas. Try anything. Two words that tidily sum up the only trouble with this place: it’s awfully hard to stop sampling, so remember that it’s just tapas, and save room for the dinner to follow. Which for a restaurant is as good as problems get.

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