In 2005, José Luís Díaz was thinking about retiring after working for many years in great local restaurants. He wanted to leave behind the stress of big kitchens, but still to cook the recipes that he loved with a different rhythm and with more time and care. And so he opened Sense Pressa – an antidote to the pressures and stresses of modern life.
Sense Pressa (literally “Unhurried”) is a cozy, modest eatery. The narrow entry adjoins a bar that is flanked by more than 300 wine bottles and leads into a wider room appointed with round tables. The ambiance walks the line between elegant and homey, serene and lively. Each night, Díaz and his team cook around 25 covers (by reservation only) in a single, leisurely seating. They enjoy the daily work in the kitchen and also the relationships with the clients, who come in and out with a friendly word or two for the staff. The customers are a variety of professionals, couples and friends who come from all over the city to eat in Sense Pressa’s comfortable, welcoming atmosphere, where the solicitous attention and the unhurried tempo are both important parts of the meal.
The cuisine here is based in Spanish multiregional traditions, with that magic combination of simplicity and remarkable ingredients. Lamb, pork, Atlantic and Mediterranean fish and seafood from the best sources are given classic treatments that have been thoughtfully reconsidered to improve the dish and the experience. Díaz offers a fixed menu and also a roster of dishes that change daily with the season, which he personally describes and explains to each table.
The star here is the absolutely wonderful dish of chickpeas with a “broken” fried egg and espardenyes (or espadrilles – yes, the typical shoes), a kind of sea cucumber, traditionally eaten along the entire Spanish Mediterranean coast and still very much a delicacy. At the table, the waiter or Díaz himself cuts and mixes the eggs. Every table orders this dish, to eat individually or to share as a starter. Díaz invented it after two years working in his restaurant, taking as inspiration another seafood-legume combination, the classic clams with beans, which can be found in virtually every good traditional Catalan restaurant. The chickpeas, from Fuentesaúco IGP (Protected Geographical Indication), are profoundly luscious and creamy. The egg unifies all the ingredients but also allows their individual identities to shine. The sea cucumber has a much more intense flavor than that of clams, and so calls for a counterpart that can stand up to it – hence the chickpeas.
Among other great dishes we’ve enjoyed recently at Sense Pressa were a refreshing and tasty cold tomato soup with lobster and delightful squash blossoms, stuffed with cod brandade, battered and fried and served with a light romescu sauce.
We can’t leave Díaz’s restaurant without having the chocolate soufflé, a flourless marvel of a generous size. It’s yet another reason to linger at the table.
This article was originally published on June 18, 2015.