After decades of going to restaurants and doing a critical analysis of what I eat, I have come to the conclusion that the most enjoyable meals are those in which the cook has used his head and creates dishes that get the most out of the ingredients.
My preference is for three dishes with pleasant surprises in which the cook achieved something different, but without any of the fancy foamy and crunchy bits of those in the Michelin galaxy.
I got those three dishes (with reasonable prices) at Ram Bar and the meal was enjoyable, although nothing was absolutely correct. One dish got a 10 rating (after giving it some thought) and in the other two, simple changes would have made all the difference.
But I’m not complaining: it would be lovely if all restaurant meals were as delightful as this and sparked off so much interesting comment.
Our first dish was called ‘flores de alcachofas’ (artichoke flowers) and the concept was neat: artichokes are partly peeled, dechoked and roasted in the oven so that the leaves open out like the petals of a flower.
The artichokes were peeled so that the leaves weren’t tough or fibrous (a little detail that is totally essential in all artichoke dishes) and the inside of the ‘flower’ was scattered with crispy diced panceta, which added flavour as well as nice contrasts of texture. But the neat idea didn’t quite work because the artichoke hearts, in this case the foundation stone of the dish, weren’t quite al dente enough and they were unable to prop up the ‘flower’ — which duly collapsed.
The idea is still a good one and all it needs is for the cooks to work out the precise oven time so the artichoke hearts remain nicely al dente and shore up the leaves.
Our other dish is on the menu as ‘feta cheese with roast tomatoes’. For me the term ‘roast tomatoes’ means whole or halved tomatoes replete with mushy succulence. What we got were thin wedges of tomato, without the seeds and their liquid.
The scorching heat of the oven left these wedges somewhat shrivelled and the term ‘roast tomatoes’ was the year’s most inaccurate description. Someone in the kitchen should have realised that and made the necessary changes.
However, the herb-encrusted feta cheese saved the dish because it got the right amount of heat to give it a lovely spongy texture and the taste was scrummy. Feta cheese is usually much too salty, but this one was just right.
I’m going to do this dish at home when the weather cools down a bit and I’ll use halves of plum tomatoes — complete with seeds and juices.
When this smartly designed and furnished restaurant opened a few years ago, it was one of the most soignée places in town — with prices to match.
When I ate there soon after it opened, only two dishes came within my review budget. That formula obviously didn’t work because they now have a nice selection of dishes designed to share between two and with prices on the €10 mark.
This time I could afford three dishes. But a tiny caña costs €2.60 and it is the worst beer I have ever been served. They gave us a good little freebie aperitif — two small pork sausages on chopped salad veggies.
Ram Bar, La Rambla 20, Palma. Tel:971-677163. Closed on Sundays. They have two fixed-price menus, the more economical one costing €19.80. Play safe and reserve a table for dinner on Fridays and Saturdays.
Artichoke flowers, €10
Feta and tomatoes, €10
Chicken escabeche, €10
4 small cañas, €10.40
Total cost with VAT: €40.40 euros.