Passing from the street you could be mistaken for thinking that Sesamo is just a narrow, whitewashed bar, and indeed it is, offering a sanctuary from running the gauntlet of Raval’s streets and amongst many other drinks an array of premium gin and tonics.
However, if you enter and walk through an Aladdin’s cave of vegetarian delights opens up and invites you in. Sesamo is one of few venues in Barcelona offering a ‘restaurant’ experience of meat free meals.
I’ve enjoyed eating here once before but earlier last month I was lucky to be able to attend one of owner Alfredo’s tasting evenings where he was showcasing some items off their weekly changing menu. Arriving late, rushed, flustered and laiden with bags it was heavenly to walk in and find a glass of red waiting for me and some freshly cooked offerings my friends had sampled an hour or so earlier.
My first mouthful was a seeded crostini with a slice of brie topped with a rich, black olive mousse that had a super smooth texture reminiscent of a good chicken liver pâté. I make that reference because it’s what I associated it with, not that this food was in anyway trying to replace meat dishes. The crostini and all bread here is supplied by favourite of mine Baluard.
This was followed by a salad of slivers of carrot, sweetcorn kernals, radicchio and seeds in a light dressing which provided a tasty, clean crunch.
Next came the tortellini with gorgonzole in a sage butter, the said butter was very moreish if ever so slightly too overpowering for the cheese inside the pasta.
These were then followed by a couple of different risottos. The first of the two was with radicchio, toasted almonds and roquefort which was packed with loads of flavour and was really set off by the toasted almonds and the rice which had that required bit of bite.
However the dish of the evening for me was the second risotto with green apple and taleggio. Of course cheese and apple are a perfect match but it wouldn’t have occurred to me to combine them in risotto, however it worked wonderfully, I shall definitely be trying to produce something similar at home.
With a self-confessed cheese adoring owner it’s hardly surprising that the menu is heavily cheese influenced, although some would argue you can never have too much cheese. That said there are vegan options so there should be something for everyone, such as the dish of coconut curry with basmati rice, a picante coconut curry of courgette and green beans with a hint of madras about it served with perfectly cooked, fluffy rice. Oh if only I could master the same with rice at home.
My flusteredness on my first visit meant I left without adequate photos and a few lingering questions, as such I was invited back a second time. What a treat! So on Tuesday night I sat down to round two. This time we started with an appetiser of healthy baked tortilla topped with gorgonzola, roasted vegetables and pistachio oil.
Next came a plate of papas arrugadas, a Canary Island dish of wrinkled potatoes with dual sauces of red pepper and surprisingly tasty and complimentary mango.
Another appetiser of tofu and miso paste topped with olive tapenade was too salty and lacked a bit of alternative texture to the two pastes so wasn’t quite to my personal taste.
Now beetroot is one of my ‘most hated’ ingredients but from time to time someone succeeds in getting me to enjoy it, and that’s what happened here with gorgonzola filled gnocchi in beetroot sauce. I’m not sure the addition of mozzarella was needed to but the dish was delicious nonetheless.
I’ve often wondered what to do with an abundance of mint as those plants can grow crazily at times but inspiration was provided with rigatoni in mint pesto, just subtle and not overpowering for the other ingredients.
Wild green asparagus, which I’ve seen many people foraging in the small town outside Barcelona where I work, made an appearance in the risotto that came next, served with goat’s cheese.
The risotto, however, was completely outshone by the asparagus salad with basil, toasted pistachios and lime and ginger dressing which was the outstanding star of the evening’s show.
A mushroom lasagne with smoked mozzarella was next, maybe slightly more suited for the preceeding months but still a winner.
Sadly we turned down a couple of curries waiting in the kitchen for us to satisfy our sweet cravings and chose three desserts to share. The brownie with strong Bailey’s sauce had us all reaching to wipe the plate.
The peanut butter cheesecake was overbaked and crumbly but was tasty and didn’t stop us fighting with our forks for the last mouthful.
And finally, a rich, sticky triple chocolate cake layered with mascarpone cream and that favourite of Alfredo’s native Argentina, dulce de leche.
Sesamo leaves you satisified and meat eaters confessing that they didn’t miss the carne. It’s also easy on the wallet, starters start at around 3€ and no main course is more than 12€, desserts are about 5€.
Many thanks to Alfredo and staff for the invitation and hospitality.
Sesamo, C/Sant Antoni Abat 52, Raval