Veteran chef David Reig made the Parmesan-cut wafer at El Bulli. Two decades later, the thought still makes my mouth water. And the salted meat he practiced in Celler de Can Roca in 2012 he continues to develop today in the unexpected La Gambarrada, a different restaurant that opened this year in Vilanova i la Geltrú.
Because that’s where it lives. And because since 2006 he has been a teacher (cooking, pastry and service) a few kilometers away, in Sitges. Rare, a teacher who changes chair and kitchen. Like the one who was his teacher, Joan Roca.
“For years I wanted to do something different. This restaurant was going to be called Porta Blava, but my friend made me change my mind: ‘it’s my grandfather’s name and has nothing to do with what you want to do’. Actually, I wanted a thug restaurant. And give the Vilanova shrimp a wild game. And thus Gambarrada was born.”
What follows is the result of conversations that began over two compelling lunches and four dinners. Reig knows how to explain what he does. He had an internship as a student (Sant Narcís in Girona and Sant Ignaci in Sarrià) from 1993 to 2003, and even a post-graduate course in science and cooking, at the University of Barcelona, 2015.
“I wanted to know everything in the kitchen and in the dining room, but also managers, whose ignorance explains failures in good chef projects. You can cook well, but if you don’t pay the wages…’.
Due to this lack of learning, he was also a consultant to companies (with Enodis he was three times in the VIP space of the Bocuse de Oro) and various restaurants in the two Catalonian states.
He had a restaurant for three years in his native Girona, he was a chef in a French 2-star restaurant and, as already mentioned, he went through El Bulli and El Celler de Can Roca.
I’m a journalist, I don’t criticize -I hardly consider myself a gourmet citrus fruit-, but I think I know when the gear works without squeaking. Perhaps, in this case, because Reig breathes pleasure in his double life, as a teacher and a chef. And because he says he opened the restaurant “to have fun and for people to have fun.”
The truth is that everything from the five croquettes set in clay shrimp specially produced in Valencia (where, if not, the balance between practicality and kitsch?) to salted sea bread, the basis of carpaccio to chew, with small apples. for the acidity, toasted almonds for the crunch, grapes and grapeseed oil with kimchi, the palate is entertained as much as the nose and the eye.
And from the golden crusty bread, with smoked butter and Garraf herbs, to the steamed brioche accompanying sweet veal and cod, the offer, peculiarly, can be arranged as tapas or food.
The rice -from Delta- is taken out with the thickness of a finger. At the bottom of the cooking is Vilanova squid and monkfish. And the onion supports the long and gentle traditional cooking, called passage, which turns it black. The gamberro rice comes out covered in shrimp and mussel carpaccio.
Gamba, from Vilanova of course. Their crispy heads as an aperitif, whole in a wood oven; The shrimp chest, ground, gives an -addictive- powder that goes into making the croquettes (bechamel sauce, American crab and red shrimp, salted egg yolk…). Or tasty prawns in a carpaccio of pork peus with mushrooms and shrimp mayonnaise. Finally, a parmentier of shrimp with an American sauce and a sauce of ticket season that goes from Vilanova to Capdevànol.
But carpaccio or grilled tataki tuna is also very special, because “it’s not a yellow not a blue but a town. Reig, in addition, mackerel room (served with tomatoes, tartar sauce and mint) and sea bass, in carpaccio with small pieces of peach, shrimp and pistachios.
No less important details for the savings to come: glasses of wine at 3 euros and bottles from 16 euros. Between €4.95 for rare bread with smoked butter and €15 for the Gambarrada croquettes, there is room for a dozen hot or cold starters.
Some, like eggplant with goat cheese and chardonnay honey or foie gras caramel sets on the table are already the stars of the house.
None of the ten dishes -5 fish and 5 meat- reach 16 euros. The three rice dishes (dry squid and prawns baked in a wood oven, lobster broth and Hooligan), are between 19.50 and 21 euros. And the 5 desserts, from 3.25 to 6.95.
All served by staff as efficient and smiling. And a motto that is a statement of principles: “A free Mediterranean restaurant with no frills, looking for proximity and quality in products”.
Pg. del Carme, 22, 08800 Vilanova i la Geltrú, Barcelona
934 86 07 13