**** Three years after the opening fabulous Catalina La Fina closed its doors again. The very concept of togetherness – a lively crowded bar and an open kitchen – was destroyed by the pandemic. We badly miss you, Catalina. However, Xema Alvarez is now chef at Xalest, restaurant of the new Hotel Concepció in Palma.****
When my friend Angela told me about Catalina La Fina a while ago I was curious not least because it was bearing my own name. When we finally got there I fell in love with its long red lacquered bar right away. The exact color of Pedro Almodóvar’s kitchen in his recent movie Dolor y Gloria. Sitting at an equally red table on the boardwalk we enjoyed the relaxed Santa Catalina neighborhood. But the true star that night was Xema Álvarez. The young Mallorcan chef conjured up some most delicious dishes in his open kitchen.
Catalina La Fina’s menu is small yet it was hard to make a choice. Fortunately there were two of us, so we ordered a couple of starters and entrees para compartir. The tuna tartar with avocado was melting slowly on the tongue. Followed by crisp tacos with perfectly spiced cerdo ibérico. Monkfish and chickpeas came with deep fried kale that not only looked beautiful but had an exceptional mouth feeling. And the mahi mahi was topped with crunchy platano chips and a slightly hot salsa. Scrumptious.
Xema Álvarez loved cooking ever since he was a child. After apprenticing several years in Bilbao and Aarhus and working with Andreu Genestra on Mallorca he took the chance to open his own restaurant. His godfather offered him a small space next to the family’s local Bar Junior in Santa Catalina. Soon after Xema had opened his narrow street bar it became very popular. Among neighbors and those who feel like they belong to the barrio while they eat and chat at the red bar or at one of the small tables of Catalina La Fina.