13-09-2014

A new Poboleda villager, Brots Restaurant

Photo by Vinologue

Despite being awash in world class wines from both DOQ Priorat and DO Montsant, it’s no secret that the Priorat comarca in which both of these wine regions reside does not have a great wealth of top-end restaurants. Trust me, we searched out and ate at everything there is for our Priorat and Montsant books.

Each village has its typical go-to lunch spot where the local workers eat their midday menus, but for a higher end offer, it gets scant. In Falset there’s Celler de l’Àspic at the top with Hostal Sport and Cairats as well. In Porrera, there’s La Cooperativa. Marçà has Celler la Miloquera. Gratallops has El Piró and Celler de Gratallops. And then, it starts to get a bit more random with some good but not mind blowing choices up in Cornudella and Siurana.

Given that it’s the Harvest Festival today in Poboleda, let’s talk about that village as things have been a changin’. With Populetus closing, yet another restaurant was scratched off the available offer leaving only El Cau which I absolutely love, but is better suited for basic, everyday eating. Given all of this, Belgian chef, Pieter Truyts saw his moment to start something new called Brots, the Catalan word for the new buds on the wine vines.

Why on earth is this classically trained chef who has worked around Europe opening a restaurant in a small, out of the way village like Poboleda? Sure there are good wineries there, but that alone isn’t enough to draw someone to the wilds of Priorat. Of course it all makes sense once you find out that his wife is Silvia Puig, formerly the enolog of Puig Priorat before she left the winery to pursue her own new project, En Números Vermells that she vinifies in Torroja.

The restaurant is the bottom floor of their family home so it offers a wondrously easy commute for Pieter and it also offers him a great deal of flexibility, such as being open for dinner every day that the restaurant is open–this is a rare thing in the area given that most restaurants focus just on lunch. And it’s a nice space he’s created. Something akin to what you find in Barcelona with modern roughness in the wood tables as well as the very nice cutlery and glasses. Everything is tinged a bit of red with the large mural on one wall of Pieter’s arm opening a curtain and showing his various food-related tattoos. It fits somewhere around 25 people and is a small space with an open kitchen at the back, but doesn’t feel overly tight even when full.

While all of this could be sufficient to set the restaurant apart, Pieter set about creating a menu that was unique and while offering modern takes on some of the local dishes, he is also making items that aren’t typically seen in the area with a lot of fresh fish dishes. He emphasizes that everything is cooked there in the restaurant from raw ingredients. This is an important item to note as in Europe pre-cooked items on menus are becoming a regular appearance to the point where the French enacted a law to allow those who do still cook their own food to put an icon on the menu to show as such. Spain is, to put it politely, years behind in this regard.

But it doesn’t stop there as Pieter also grows a huge wealth of what they prepare in the restaurant and makes his own items such as the botiffarra, the delicious Catalan sausage that, when made of quality ingredients is transcendent. His making them in house does admittedly give a special touch of authenticity and boost of taste. So, how do the rest of the plates stand up? On my visit there, I tried his main tasting menu which is 29€.

It started with the beef tongue salad that was mixed with smoked fish. I was a bit neutral on this dish. While the quality of the ingredients was excellent, it came across muddled with too many dominant flavors vying for center stage. It overall worked well as an opening dish, but I feel like it could be worked over a bit more to get the balance of everything correct.

Photo by Vinologue

This was followed by a risotto of octopus and basil that was dusted with parmesan cheese. This was excellent. Octopus (as shown by most any touristic restaurant in the center of Barcelona) is extremely easy to screw up but this was perfect. Well cooked, but not rubbery and with fresh flavors of a quality mollusk. The rice at the base was also perfectly prepared and it all came together as a harmonious dish.

Photo by Vinologue

The Iberic pork and sobrassada “bundle” (farcell) also worked well. Served on a bed of potatoes with an excellent sauce, it wasn’t the wealth of flavors that the risotto was, but it was still very tasty and very well prepared.

Photo by Vinologue

Many restaurants I visit fall down on dessert, but not Brots. The wasabi ice cream with green tea cream sauce (I believe it was substituted with a white chocolate sauce that day) for me was great. Maybe for Catalans the downplayed spiciness of the wasabi would be too much, but I love seeing this kind of balance of flavors in a dessert that plays with your expectations, but ultimately finishes sweet and perfect.

My final verdict on Brots is that it’s definitely a worthy addition to the Priorat eating scene, especially given that the wine list is broken down by villages, is wonderfully extensive, and well-priced. At the same time, I can tell that Pieter is playing around with the dishes a bit. On the restaurant’s various social media outlets, I’m always seeing new dishes popping up and I think that he’ll change things seasonally as well as refine what he already has as a young restaurant.

The price is more or less typically in the region at 29€. It needs to be noted that this is pre-tax and I really don’t like this practice. It’s actually not allowed by law unless it clearly states that the price is pre-IVA. With the 10% added in, it comes out to around 32€ before drinks. This makes it a bit more than La Cooperativa and a touch less than Celler de l’Àspic for lunch. Is it worth the price? I really need to eat again as Pieter moves in to the Fall and Winter dishes which for me are the most exciting, but at the moment, I feel that it’s close and I have no doubt that Pieter is dedicated to push it up to excellent.

Is it worth checking out? If you’re looking for something new and even if you hadn’t planned to visit Poboleda for Mas Doix or Mas Sinèn, I definitely recommend it.