If anything in recent history has bonded Spanish hearts, it was neither politics, language, flags nor even TV. It was the tortilla de patatas, the iconic potato omelet.
In every house, bar and restaurant, the tortilla de patates is always treated with intimacy and respect, like some sort of communal great-great-grandmother. And in every Spanish city, you will find a list of the best kitchens offering this specialty.
For Barcelona, one neighborhood temple devoted to the omelet is Les Truites, a small family restaurant in Sant Gervasi run by Joan Antoni Miró and his son Marc. Since 1978, the Mirós have been morphing and re-morphing the original tortilla recipe, developing 180 variations on the dish and publishing two books about their findings – the latest of which is titled Con Un Par de Huevos (“With a Couple of Eggs”).
The potato omelet, known in most of Spain’s regions as the Spanish omelet, is a humble dish that some sources suggest was first conceptualized in the little village of Villanueva de la Serena in Extremadura, during the food shortage of the late 18th century, as a primitive mixture of wheat flour (which was expensive) and potatoes (cheap), that with the addition of egg (fairly easy to come by) could be fried up with a little oil in a pan (a more popular tool than the oven). This was the prototype of the current glorious versions that abound in Spain. This recipe was documented for the first time in 1798 as an accessible remedy to stave off starvation, and was documented again in 1817 in Navarra as a composition of breadcrumbs, potatoes and eggs typically made by farmers. The rest is evolution.
Just as the origin of the potato omelet is humble, so too is the origin of Les Truites. After working as a waiter in another restaurant, Joan Antoni opened his own little bar in 1978, knowing nothing about running a kitchen. He learned the basics of a few tapas to start. But, for some reason, the magic chemistry of the potato omelet hooked him, and he began improving on the original, creating his own recipes. His son Marc is a disciple, assuring us that the prototypical omelet is not sacrosanct: “Tortilla is a very traditional dish that can be made in many different ways, not only the potato and vegetable kinds that are made more frequently at home. You can always try something new.”
People journey from all parts of the city to enjoy these peculiar, eggy treats.
Back in the day, Les Truites’ clients were mostly their neighbors. But after 40 years of lifting the art of tortillas to the cosmos, people journey from all parts of the city to enjoy the restaurant’s singular, eggy treats.
Made only with free-range eggs from Calaf (the best eggs in Catalonia come from this village), the Mirós’ current omelets are a self-taught evolution in technique. The two oldest omelets in their repertoire are a classic thick potato omelet with caramelized onion (succulent and creamy), and the popular butifarra (Catalan sausage) with bacon and potato (slightly spicy, rich and super tasty). Both omelets are available every day and are made to order, along with two other modern stars: the truffle tortilla with foie gras (aromatic and sophisticated) and a surprisingly iconic one made with a croissant and Jamón Ibérico. The latter re-conceptualizes a classic of many Spanish cafeterias, a croissant filled with ham and cheese.
Other favorites include the umami explosion of the octopus a la Gallega, or a tortilla filled with Cabrales cheese and onion. But the possibilities don’t even end there. Joan Antoni has such impeccable technique that he can transform almost anything into an omelet: traditional dishes like cap i pota (cow head and leg) stew, trinxat de la Cerdanaya (cabbage with potato and bacon), xató (escarole, salted cod, tuna, anchovies and a sauce similar to romescu) or the iconic callos (spicy cow tripe) with chickpeas all get the tortilla treatment here.
There’s even tapas-inspired tortillas, like the so-obvious-why-isn’t-it-elsewhere patatas bravas omelet. (For those less daring, salads, burgers, gazpachos, croquets and fish carpaccio can also be found at Les Truites.)
And for dessert? Why not an omelet? Something between a crepe and a quiche, the dessert omelets somehow work. Currently in season is one full of cherries, for instance. Then there are the incredible transformations of traditional pastries, like Coca de Sant Joan, Tortell de Reis or Panellets omelets, available in season or if you call ahead. The most successful dessert omelet is the bitter orange, strawberry or peach variety, served hot and covered in melted chocolate.
Foreign dishes have made the cut too, with omelets full of pesto spaghetti, or feta salad, or even ones shaped like a UFO… Joan Antoni’s imagination knows no bounds. There’s one exception: paella. Marc explains, “We considered it… But for many people, paella is a myth already. Maybe there is no need to add anything else.” Some things are still sacred.