Spain

Just finished 2 days of Ferran Adria talks, it’s amazing to listen to this guy speak because he is so passionate about what he does, but he does tend to ramble on and digress. To continue running a restaurant comprising of a team of 70(chefs + front of house), serving 35 dishes to 50 diners, and working close to 15 hour shifts when they’re open, on top of all this, the restaurant doesn’t make any profit, is truly incredible. More importantly though, he talked about what he plans to do with El Bulli after 2014. He said it wouldn’t be a restaurant, and it wouldn’t be a Taller(Workshop), it will be a think tank for creativity; the truth is, it doesn’t sound like he knows what exactly its going to be yet and I guess eventually, it will take 2012-2014 before he finalizes what he wants to do with the place. From my point of view, it seems like its going to be a chefs resource where they are going to focus mainly on creating avant garde techniques, not dishes, but techniques to bring gastronomy to the next level; which basically means that it’s going to get even harder to get a whiff of Adria’s cuisine. Moreover, there are many, many talented chefs in the El Bulli team, for example.  Oriol Castro can leave El Bulli to set up his own restaurant, and I’m sure he’ll have at least a Michelin star within his first year. I’m not sure who among the current staff is going to stick with Ferran Adria, considering that he mentioned he has been having trouble explaining his idea to his own team. The one thing I can be sure of is- I’m glad I managed to eat there before god knows what will happen come 2014.

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Spain

Rafa’s, Spain

Note: I have only uploaded some of the dishes that we had during the meal, the photoset isn’t complete.

Rafa’s came under my radar after an episode of Bourdain’s ‘Decoding Ferran Adria’. Ferran Adria actually mentioned that Rafa’s is his favourite restaurant, and if its good enough for the best chef in the world, it’s definitely good enough for me. Actually having a meal at Rafa’s isn’t all that simple, after spending a lot of time researching on the internet, I found out that the best way is by following these steps:

1) Call a week in advance to get your reservation

2) Call on the day of your reservation, to make sure that the restaurant is going to be open on that day, because if the catch for that day isn’t up to Rafas standards, he won’t open the restaurant

3) Print a blown up map of the exact location of Rafas, as well as the address. Because if you don’t, you are not going to be able to find the place

As you can see, Rafa’s has no discernible signboard that actually gives you an indication that you’ve reached Rafa’s, if this is your first time here. Set in the quaint neighbourhood of Roses, 5 minutes away from the beach, the fact that this is Ferran Adria’s favourite restaurant goes to show that the best chefs in the world love to eat comfortably on the regular basis.

Rafa’s serves only seafood, but not just any seafood, the freshest they can get their hands on; meaning that a few hours prior to your meal, everything you ate was still alive.

Snails

The first dish we had at Rafa’s, testament to their mantra on the quality and freshness of seafood, this was, indeed, very fresh. It had a good natural sweetness, and a nice bite. Okay

Sea Cucumber

This was actually the first time I had come into contact with a white sea cucumber of this variety, apparently found off the coast of Spain, make no mistake, this isn’t the kind of sea cucumber that is served at Asian restaurants, this was a revelation for everyone at the table. It was so meaty, juicy, and crunchy, it had the consistency similar to that of a bamboo clam, but much softer. Rafa’s doesnt use a lot of fancy cooking techniques, its mainly olive oil, salt, and then it goes on the grill, letting the seafood speak for itself. This was one of the best things I’ve ever had. Incidentally, we had the same kind of sea cucumber at El Bulli the following night, but all of us preferred the Rafa’s version.  Superb

Squid

How do you follow up that amazing sea cucumber dish? With a dish that’s just as good, if not better. I knew that I wouldn’t be uploading the full set of photos from Rafa’s, because all the mains we had were fish, but this, to me, is the crux of this blog post. If you ever come to Rafa’s, and you can only order one item, this is the one to get. This is everything a squid can, and should be; grilled to absolute perfection,  drizzled with the highest quality olive oil, and seasoned with a little salt, only then, do you treat an ingredient of this quality, with the respect it deserves. The legs grilled till they had a nice char to them, you get a crunch with every bite, the body so juicy, so succulent, and those aren’t normally words you’ll associate with squid. No herbs, no garlic, because that would have taken away from the natural flavour of the squid, sometimes less is definitely more. This was actually served as a starter at Rafa’s, but we saw someone having a huge plate of this, and nothing else. Superb

The highlight of the meal at Rafa’s is supposed to be the fish, and we had fish, a lot of fish, so much fish that I can’t even remember most of what we had, which obviously doesn’t do justice to the dishes we had. Each fish was simply cooked, again, olive oil and a little salt, maybe a little garlic. Good

And guess who we spotted? Albert Adria, who as the creative director and pasty chef at El Bulli up untill 2008, also, brother of Ferran Adria DUH

This was truly, one of the most memorable meals I’ve had. And look, no Michelin stars. Rafa is clearly a chef to cares deeply about the quality of the food he serves to his customers, and you taste it in everything you at at his restaurant. If there is one comment that I can leave you with, it’s that if you have a reservation at El Bulli, Rafa’s is just as important a place to visit when you’re in Roses.

Spain

Jamonisimo, Spain

Ham Purveyor to reknowned chefs such as Anthony bourdain, Ferran Adria, Alain Ducasse,Joël Robuchon.

I first heard about Jamonisimo on Anthony Bourdain’s special on “Decoding Ferran Adria“, the scene where he rubs a piece of iberco jamon on his lips,and the look of satisfaction on his face thereafter, left such a strong impression on me that it was one of the first places on my list to hunt down, the moment I knew I was going to be in Spain. Enter Jamonisimo, a quaint little shop in the middle of a busy Barcelona neighbourhood.

Racks and racks of delicious, cured ham, left out to dry. But not just any kind of ham, this was Jamón ibérico, or Iberico Ham, or pata negra, or simply put it, the best damn ham in the world. And make no mistake about it, Jamonisimo makes a conscious effort so source out the best hams in Spain.

We started out with a platter of choritzo and various other kinds of sausages. They were all good and had their own distinct personalities; smoky, salty, decadent, even nutty at times. Good

And then we came to the real deal, the Iberico ham. Eating this redefined my idea of what ham can, and should be. So soft and translucent it nearly melted on your tongue, releasing an explosion of the most intense ham flavour I have ever experienced. There are many chefs that work with Iberico ham, but to taste it in its raw(somewhat) form, was an absolute treat. 3 forms of the Iberico ham is served on the tasting platter, each from a different part of the leg. Superb

Spain

El Bulli, Spain (***)

3 Michelin Stars

The Best restaurant in the world

The drive to El Bulli is a journey in itself, much like the meal. The road to El Bulli stretches up high atop the mountains, where you get a scenic view of  Roses, then you come down slightly on to a plateau-like area where El Bulli resides. Few buildings surround El Bulli, and it would be easy to miss the restaurant, if you don’t know what you’re looking for. After a short walk in the garden, the last thing you see is the view of the restaurant kitchen through a little glass window. With the head of a Bull and Ferran Adria at its helm. El Bulli’s culinary connections span all across the world, just look at how the restaurant influenced my trip to Spain: Elena Arzak, of Arzak restaurant, worked at El Bulli. Andoni Luiz Aduriz, of Mugaritz, worked at El Bulli. Rafa’s is Ferran Adria’s favourite restaurant. Jamonisimo provides Iberico ham to El Bulli.  The fact that El Bulli was one of the last stops on our Spain trip, we felt like we had come full circle, and this is the core of Spanish food, this was the center of the culinary world.

Enter El Bulli, and we are quickly ushered into the kitchen to meet the man himself, Ferran Adria, the best chef in the world. He speaks very fast and my Spanish friends have told me he is often mocked for his accent and manner of speaking. He looked very pleased when I showed him a photo of Albert Adria, his brother, whom I spotted at Rafas the night before. The kitchen is a sight to behold, 50 diners are taken per service, and there are 50 chefs working in the kitchen at all times(this is excluding front of house staff), its not hard to see why El Bulli does not earn any profit from it’s diners.

Walk into the courtyard, an open area area next to the sea, take in the sea breeze for a moment, and you are immediately served with the first course of many courses, at El Bulli.

Couse 1: Sugarcane sticks infused with mojito and caipirinha

The “course” is more of an aperitif. Pull out the sugarcane sticks and begin sucking; I did not expect them to be as intense as they were, they were sweet but had a really good alcoholic kick at the end. This was to be a strong indication of the rest of the meal to come: Very intense flavors. Good

Course 2: Handkerchief

Is actually corn paper. Absolutely delicious, to be broken off using your fingers, paper itself was sugary-sweet from the flavor of the corn, and the little bits of corn stuck to it added a savory element to the snack, almost tasted like corn nuts. I could have this every day for the rest of my life and I would never get tired of this. Superb

Course 3: Gin Fizz

Hands down, the best alcoholic drink I have ever had. The drink is served tableside, topping the drink off with a very dense meringue using a whipping cream siphon. You get the sweetness of the gin base, then the alcohol kicks in, and you smell the wonderful citrus-y notes. It truly sends your taste buds on an incredible journey, and after each mouthful, the only thing you could possibly want is to pick up your glass and have another go. Superb.

Video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=64nKhk9oSaM

Course 4,5,6
Top: Cherry umeboshi
Middle: Spherical olives
Bottom: Mimetics peanuts

You can tell early on that Ferran Adria gets much inspiration from Asia. The umeboshi, or pickled cherry, didn’t wow me, but then again, Im not a fan of savory fruits. Okay

The spherical olives, Im sure many have heard about. Looks somewhat like an olive, but bite through its outer shell, which feels abit like a very thin film on your tongue, and pure liquid olive essence explodes on your tongue. If you’re a fan of olives, you’ll absolutely love this. Im not that crazy about it. Okay

Mimetics peanuts, despite its incredulous and cryptic sounding name, are actually delicious. It basically has a cold(liquid nitro?), delicate shell that breaks easily in your mouth, and liquid peanut, tasting like a very creamy, soft, but supremely intense peanut essence oozes out. Very good.

Course 7: Sesame cracker.

I can’t remember much about it, but it was very soft and it melted on the tongue, similar to the consistency of a marshmellow, but much softer. Okay

Course 8: Japanese cookie

I don’t remember much about this, but it wasn’t a cookie. It was served on a bed of rocks and we were told to eat this IMMEDIATELY(they were adamant about that), as you can see from the photo, its basically a piece of seaweed more delicate than a newborn baby, with sesame seeds and another topping I cant identify. Okay

Course 9: Vanilla Chips

A bowl of see through ‘chips’, that again melt on your mouth, very very similar to listerine pocketpaks, but with a vanilla flavor. Okay

Enter the El Bulli dining room after the barrage of snacks. An actual rose sits in a rectangular vase on the El Bulli table, set to play its part in the meal later. The El Bulli meal begins.

Course 10: Flower nectar

You are served a flower, and after re-confirming with the waiter 3 times that we were ‘NOT SUPPOSED TO EAT THE FLOWER’, we proceeded to suck the nectar out. It was very sweet, honey like, but much more fragrant. Im not sure if it was necessary to have us suck it out of the flower, since the “nectar” is manually placed in the flower, but it was nice to see how Adria sees many connections between food and where it comes from. Okay.

Course 11: Coconut sponge

How on earth was this made? A cold, very aerated coconut ‘spongecake’, that really wasn’t a cake at all, it was more of a frozen coconut block that was so delicate and soft that it literally melted in your fingers. Disappeared within milliseconds on your tongue, leaving cold, liquid coconut in your mouth. Amazing texture, good.

Course 12: Rose Frost

Remember the Rose used as a table ornament, this was a near PERFECT replica of that, only difference was that it was a passionfruit sorbet, delicious and refreshing. Good (By the way, look at the details on the sorbet, they actually made dark spots on the rose petals) . Looking at the sorbet, the amount of details that went into a simple sorbet is amazing, the chefs had actually made dark spots on the rose petals, and each petal, each layer of the rose is well defined. This is what food presentation can be. Good

Course 13: Black Sesame spongecake with miso

For those of you who watched Anthony Bourdain’s show on Spain, this is the technique used by Albert adria to create the 30-second spongecake. Let me just say that I like black sesame, its a fairly common ingredient in Asia. But this spongecake was a revelation for me, The fluffiest cake you have ever eaten, so tiny and light, yet the sesame taste is incredibly intense, And the miso added the perfect balance of saltiness to balance the sweetness of the cake. Its not a flavour combination that would occur to me, but it just made so much sense the moment I put it in my mouth. Superb

Course 14: Oyster leaf with dew of vinegar

“What the hell is an oyster leaf?” is the first thing that runs through your head when the waiter lays down this dish. But pop it in your mouth and start chewing, it immediately makes sense. It smells and taste exactly like you’re eating an oyster with a vinegarette…. Except… You’re not. Good

Course 15: Chicken Skin Canape

This was amazing. Crispy Chicken skin, with the back cartilage of a chicken, topped with a rich chicken sauce chock full of umami. I’ve never eaten cartilage like that, its a part of the chicken that you really wouldn’t think to use. We were told it was cooked in a pressure cooker until it turned into an almost gelatinous texture before it is used. Very good

Course 16: Truffle Surprise

The “surprise” is actually 2 spherified ravioli of truffle essence, with shaved truffle served atop. Decadence? Possibly. But the flavours were so overpowering they were borderline pungent. Bad

Course 17: Chervil Tea

Chervil tea served in the traditional Japanese green tea ceremony form, I wish they had given us green tea, because chervil tea tastes downright horrible. Almost like a thick, spinach water, with a very strong herb aroma. Bad

Tea Ceremony:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=ilAsoiW0_vA

Course 18: Prawn two firings(misspelled?) Part 1

First part of the dish: You are served two small spoons with a thick sauce made with pure prawn head, superbly intense and you get all the wonderful sweetness that you usually get when you suck the prawns head(Best part of the prawn, btw), except they took that already intense flavor, reduced it into a thick sauce, thereby making it even more intense. Too much of a good thing can only make it better. Very Good

Course 18: Prawn two firings(misspelled?) Part 2

Part 2 of the dish, you are served the actual prawn, which doesn’t look too interesting. But start eating and you quickly realise that you have been deceived. The legs(top section) are deep fried to crispy perfection, while the body is completely uncooked, much like ebi sashimi. Great contrast of textures. Superb

Course 19: Mimetic Almond

I think this dish personifies El Bulli: Nothing is ever as it seems. The tomato to the left is actually an INCREDIBLY intense tomato sorbet that almost had me gagging(Not a fan of tomato), the “mimetic almonds” are a mixture of real almonds, spherified almonts, almond ice cream, and almond jelly. Interesting to eat, but both flavors on the plate really did nothing for me. Okay

Course 20: Cockles and Yuzu

Cockles were the biggest and juciest Ive ever seen. The yuzu, however, should not have been left in its raw form as it was so sour that it was the only thing i could taste. Okay

Course 21: Mushroom-CRU with hazelnut

Im not sure what kind of mushroom was used, but it was completely raw, and had a somewhat spongy texture. Sounds disgusting, but the incredibly intense mushroom-hazelnut sauce brought the whole dish to life when eaten together. The sauce was so rich and flavourful, it tasted borderline meaty. Good

Course 22: Roses/Artichokes

No we did not eat roses, the very finely sliced pieces of artichokes were arranged to mimic the pattern of a white rose that was brought out for comparison. Im not crazy about artichokes, and everyone agreed that more could have been done to the artichokes to make it more appetizing. Bad

Course 23: Pumpkin and Almond Sandwich

The ‘Bread’ portion of the sandwich was a texture that I can only describe as a Pumpkin foam that was baked. It was dry enough to be picked up with your fingers, but when it hit the moisture of your tongue, it immediately disintegrated into pumpkin. The ‘filling’ of the sandwich was shaved truffles and more almonds, the almonds added a nice crunch to the otherwise melt in your mouth textures, very fun and quirky. Good

Course 24: Sea Anemone with te

Yeah, I’ve eaten Sea Anemone. Its exotic, and once you’ve eaten it, you’ll realise that theres a very sound reason why people don’t eat sea anemone. It does not taste good. Almost like really stale uni, but much less creamy, it had more of a slimy texture, similar to a dragon fruit, but with no bite whatsoever . Bad

Course 25: Pinenut Shabu Shabu

Basically pinenut shabu shabu consists of little ravioli packets that have a texture or consistency of a very thin, see through piece of rice paper(Similar to that which is used to wrap certain candies), that when dipped into pinenut water, the paper melts into a very thin film, and the pinenut butter-ish liquid that is held inside floods your entire mouth with an intense pinenut flavor. A really fun dish. Okay

Course 26: Abalone

I eat abalone fairly regularly, its used alot in Asian cuisine, but this was taking the ingredient to the next level. What you have is a base made from mushrooms and seaweed, sitting atop if is a reconstructed abalone, using alternating pieces of abalone, Iberico ham fat gelee(Melt in your mouth goodness), and Ginger Gelee to cut the richness of the dish. A homage to umami, the fifth taste. A dish that was bursting with different kinds of flavors and textures, this was the most satisfying dish of the night. It was heavy and yet after finishing it you felt like you wanted more. Superb

Course 27: “espardenyes” Gelee

I had to google what ‘espardenyes’ was, and google images kept bringing up a picture of a pair of flip flops, and that is definitely not what this is. Anyway, the dish consisted of sea cucumber, not just any sea cucumber, but the juciest, plumpest sea cucumber Ive ever had. If you mention sea cucumber to any asian, they’ve probably had the black version, which is very gelatinous, and almost jelly-like. This was completely different. This had a sort of meaty-texture that was very similar to a bamboo clam. There were also very thin sheets of ginger(?) gelee.  Very Good

Course 28: Parmesan Ravioli

This was basically liquid parmesan encapsulated in a very thin film that I think was similar to the film used in the pinenut shabu shabu dish. The Parmesan liquid was incredibly intense that it was almost biting on the tongue but there was nothing on the plate to cut the saltiness. Bad

Course 29: Rabbit canape with its giblets

This dish will freak out those of you who dont eat offal. You should probably stop reading right now.

Not for the faint of heart. When you begin your meal in the courtyard at El Bulli, you are asked if you would like to eat offal, being the open minded and easy going diner that I am, I told them that I would eat anything that they serve me. The dish consisted of 2 fried (very crispy) rabbit ears, And there was rabbit brain, heart, kidney, liver, snails eggs which tasted surprisingly good, similar to caviar. Sounds horrible, but it was incredibly tasty and the contrast of textures was amazing. Good

Course 30: Kidney of Lamb with Jerez Consomme, yoghurt and fennel

The last savoury dish ended on a low. Eating lamb kidney floods your mouth with an incredibly pungent smell that is very difficult to overcome. Almost everyone at the table was struggling through this dish. Very Bad

Course 31: Pond

I’ve tried to explain this dish to many people, and they don’t really seem to get it, but if you were at this stage of the meal, having eaten some of the richest and most intense flavors you’ve ever come across in your life, this dish would make absolute perfect sense to you. The dish basically consists of a bowl, with a very thin, dome-shaped layer of ice over it. Then the waiter sprinkles sugar, mint, and green tea powder over it. Then you break the ice and munch in. The mint really shines through, refreshing, which was very much needed at this point of the meal. Very simple but nice transition into dessert. Good

Finishing the dish: www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJonqOpycas

Course 32: Cherry with kirsch

A really traditional combo- chocolate, cherry and kirsch (think black forest), Done El Bulli style. You are told to dip the cherries in a kirsch foam, and these seem to be regular cherries dipped in dark chocolate. But one bite, and liquid cherry oozes right out. I think this was done by blending cherries, freezing it into spheres with a cherry stalk for the illusion, then coating it with dark chocolate, and finally setting the cherries in the fridge so that they can melt into a liquid while the chocolate stays solid. Very good.

Course 33: Coco

You are presented with a huge white orb(Which my mum genuinely mistook for an ostrich egg), the server then sprinkles curry powder over it, and uses a spoon to ‘crack’ the orb, and you are told to break it up with your hands and eat it. It is actually a frozen orb made of coconut milk. I wasn’t crazy about the bits with curry powder, but otherwise, the coconut milk was fragrant, delicious, refreshing, and creamy. Plus, it was really fun to eat. Good

www.youtube.com/watch?v=-q_91_ztblA

Course 34: Puff pastry of pineapple

This looked like straight up astronaut food, but it was actually, very surprisingly, delicious. Freeze dried pineapple suspended between two sheets of pineapple ‘glass’ that seemed to shatter than melt when you bit into it, then melt on your tongue. Very good

Course 35: Chocolate Handkerchief

Is basically a chocolate dome built with chocolate paper, which i can only describe as very thin sheets of crispy chocolate(amazing texture), and little cubes of gelatinous alcochol dusted with coco powder that were so strong I was gagging everytime I popped one into my mouth. The chocolate paper was delicious, but the alcoholic cubes were far too intense. Good


Course 36: Shellfish

The final dish of the night at El Bulli: Shellfish

A clear sign that you need to go to El Bulli with a sense of humour to fully appreciate the entire meal. A pun on the dish “Fruits de mer”, or “Fruits of the sea”, which is usually a platter of shellfish, this last dessert consisted of a mussel filled with lychee gelee(Good), and a clam filled with Toffee ice cream, and a lemon wedge that was preserved, which had a surprisingly sweet rind that I found myself munching on periodically, feeling disgusted at myself for eating a lemon , putting it down for a few seconds, then picking it up and continuing to munch on again. Amusing, mischievous, fun. Good

Tea Service

El Bulli wouldn’t be El Bulli if they simply gave you tea when you asked for tea right? So they wheel out a freakin’ garden right in front of you. Do you want mint sir? Why of course. Snip snip snip, pops mint leaves into a tea pot, throws in a bunch of other leaves. Adds a scoop of honey. Its amazing what a fresh(very) cup of tea can do. I’m not even a big tea drinker and this was life altering. Probably the most fragrant liquid I’ve ever drunk(Ive never had perfume), sweet, and very calming after an onslaught of 35 dishes and 3.5 Hours of more or less constant eating. Amazing

A 10 Minute video of a cute El Bulli waitress prepping 3 cups of tea, compressed into 1.5 mins: www.youtube.com/watch?v=uY4DxSzAU5Y

Morphings

The final thing served to you at El Bulli- Morphings. What the hell are morphings you ask? They are an onslaught of chocolate brought to you in a cryptic looking red plastic box with more hidden compartments than a batman suit. What kind of chocolate, you ask? Everything from a fresh mint leaf pressed into piece of chocolate, to a piece of chocolate printed to look like a leaf, to white chocolate coated over a dehydrated strawberry, to a crumbly chocolate thats lighter than air, to little lego shaped strawberry, green tea and dark chocolate mini bars, to a raspberry chocolate shaped to look like a root. This box alone would have sufficed as a meal on its own. But after a 36 course meal? I made it through half the box before i conceded defeat. Nonetheless, I eventually got to try everything because we stole some chocolate back. Duh

The El Bulli kitchen at 1am. I can only imagine the amount of chaos that took place during our 4-hour meal- yeah, we were there for a long long time. I didnt come to El Bulli expecting every course to be the best dish I’ve ever had in my life, and I didn’t leave disappointed. The bad dishes, I truly struggled with, the Chevril Tea, the sea anemone; on the other hand, the good dishes were amazing, mind-blowing in the sense that your entire paradigm of how an ingredient can be used, be it the flavour, the smell, the texture, what it should look like, completely turned on its head by Ferran Adria; not every dish was good, but every dish was worth talking about, over and over. Having been the best chef in the world 5 times(4 times in the last 4 years), Ferran Adria is no stranger to controversy, the meal seemed to communicate to the diners: “I am the best chef in the world, sit down and have a meal, I will blow your mind”, and he did just that. . Was this the pinnacle of what food is and what it can be? The truth is, I dont know. But it comforts me to know that Ferran Adria’s mantra is “Change, change and change”, which is why the restaurant is closed for 6 months, to re-invent the entire menu, to discover new techniques and inspiration for new creations. To say that a restaurant has obtained perfection is to admit defeat, nothing is perfect, everything can be improved, and certainly El Bulli will continue evolving.


Spain

Arzak, Spain (***)

3 Michelin Stars

8th in the World

Enter Arzak, and meet Elena Arzak, who was very friendly and had a fairly good command of English.

Rice Vinegar with mussel

Our first amuse bouche. Mussel was very meaty and fresh, nicely cooked as well. Rice vinegar on the other hand, threw the whole thing off. Very very acidic and it had an unpleasant aftertaste. Bad

Crispy Fish Paste

This was surprisingly good. Consistency was much more delicate than Chinese fish cake, and flavours were more intense as well. Very crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. Good

Lotus root with fish mousse.
Choritzo in tempura with tamarind.
Ball of mushroom with dust of corn.

Amuse bouche platter from outer space. A re-occuring play on textures. Soft interior and crisp exterior. The Lotus root was good, the rest were okay.

Figs with Foie.

Foie gras stuffed into a fig, sprinkled with sugar and then caramelized. The best dish of the night, by far. Flavours worked to well together. The sweetness of a fig and sugar complimented the creamy, unctuous foie gras that melted on your tongue, while the fig provided a little more bite. Delicious, and the server mentioned that the individual pulp sacs or orange and pomelo on the plate were obtained by freezing the fruit in liquid nitrogen and smashing it. Plucking each sac manually would require too much effort and time. Superb

Potatos, Lobster, and copaiba.

Potato was in the form of a crisp, lobster was nicely cooked but fairly underseasoned. Overall the dish didnt work, it was really a goopy mess of a dish. Very Bad

Egg with earthquake of soil

Poached egg with fried breadcrumbs and truffle shavings. This sounds like something I should like, it really does. But the fried breadcrumbs has soaked up so much oil, the dish became incredibly heavy to eat. The truffle, however, was very aromatic(Yes I do think truffle is aromatic and I would wear truffle cologne if they made it, and on that note, I would also like to smell like ham), and the egg was perfectly cooked. Okay

Monkfish with dehydrated bronzed onion.

Monkfish was nicely cooked and well seasoned. But the goopy sauces strewn all over the plate killed the fish completely. They were completely tasteless and didn’t seem to serve any purpose to the dish apart from aesthetic reasons. And Bronzed onion? Okay, I admit this caused quite a buzz at the table and some of us were actually wondering if this was edible, with the amount of bronze coloring applied on it. But all it tasted like, was an onion, thrown into an oven and roasted till dry. It tasted good, but was it necessary? Bad

Bonito in bonfire of scales and chives.

This was actually seared tuna, I can’t remember what the sauces were. But the sauce on the plate had good flavour and seasoning. Okay

Pigeon with Potatos, spherified potatoes, and spherified Balsamic vinegar.

So much of this meal was spent trying to figure out wtf we were eating. And this was a dish that exemplified that sentiment. Lets start with the tangible food. The pigeon was nicely seasoned and had a nice char on its exterior, it wasnt the most tender of meats, but pigeon is a game-y meat and expectations have to be realistic. Potato(The real potato) was actually very good. Very well seasoned, and had some nice heat to it.  Spherified potato was straight out weird. It tasted like the equivalent of cooking potatoes in a pot of water to obtain potato soup, then throwing in salt, sodium alginate, then spherifying, which is actually probably how they did it; it doesn’t sound that appetizing, because it wasnt. And finally, the spherified balsamic vinegar. Which actually makes sense, and has been done before in “molecular gastro” salads. But was the metallic colouring really necessary? It seemed to take away from the quality of the balsamic used, and they did use a good quality aged balsamic. Okay

Lamb with seaweed cake

Lamb was once again nicely cooked. There was a slab of butter on the lamb that already melted by the time the photo was taken, that added a richness to the already unctuous lamb. The seaweed cake was very good, slightly chewy but it had such a strong seaweed flavour without overpowering the tate of the lamb. Good

Cant Remember anything about this

Soup and chocolate between vineyards
Basil ice cream, watermelon soup, and pure liquid “goopy chocolate”. I was struggling quite badly through this dish. I love the individual flavour components. Watermelon is my favourite fruit, I love fresh basil in sauces and pastas, and chocolate, well, who doesn’t love chocolate. But this dish didn’t work when all these were combined together. The watermelon was probably the best part of the dish, the basil did not work with the chocolate, and the chocolate had the consistency of spherified melted chocolate, but they were way too big and it was a struggle when thick, heavy chocolate exploded with a single bite. Very bad

“roasted peach with sugar flowers”

The peach was very fresh, succulent, and had a nice bite to it. The rest of the dish tasted like simple syrup. Okay

Yogurt sponge cake

Even the desserts look like they come from space. The yoghurt sponge cake had good flavour but was completely undone by its consistency. Very starchy and dense, it was closer to bread than it was to a sponge cake. Bad

Moon Rocks

The dubious sounding dish was actually Orange flavoured creme, frozen on the outside(liquid nitro?), while still having a liquid center. The change in textures was very interesting, and it had a pleasant orange aftertaste. Good

Leave and meet Juan Marie Arzak, who is as eccentric as the meal we just had.

This was for me, a confusing and frustrating meal. Not at all what I would expect from a three Michelin starred restaurant, and one of the best restaurants in Spain. The food was at times so experimental and pre-mature, that we felt that we were guinea pigs for the restaurant. Much of the meat was well cooked, but it was often taken a step back by a component of a flavour profile that didnt need to be on the plate. It was the most disappointing meal of our Spain trip.

Spain

Mugaritz, Spain (**)

2 Michelin Stars

4th in the World

Getting to Mugaritz isnt easy, the roads are winding, and a GPS would have a hard time pinpointing its exact location. But as you near the restaurant, there are signs that let you know you are getting close, and they are an indication of good, good things to come.

First thing that strikes you about Mugaritz is how beautiful it is. The lush countryside surrounding it, the garden that Mugaritz uses to grow some of its own herbs, fruits, and vegatables, and the outdoor sitting area where diners can relax before their meal. It sets the mood for a relaxed atmosphere, a high end meal in a non pretentious setting.

Snacks: Rocks with Garlic Mayo

A dish synonymous with Mugaritz, “Rocks” are actually potatos baked in an edible clay shell.  To complete the illusion, there are actual rocks at the bottom of the dish. They dont look to much like their inedible counterparts to be honest, but the amount of detail on the rocks is amazing. Taste wise, it was disappointing, the clay shell cracked(crumbled?) the moment you bit into it, and left your mouth with a very unpleasant powdery residue. It was almost impossible to eat without the garlic mayo. Bad

Just in case you didn’t believe that this was actually a potato.

The interior of Mugaritz is just as beautiful as it’s garden right outside. It was very inviting and the rustic furniture really fit into the setting of the restaurant.

Enter the kitchen to meet Andoni Luiz Aduriz, head chef of Mugaritz. He doesnt speak English but he is very friendly. Kitchen is surprisingly small.

Amuse Bouche:Cucumber with cucumber water.

I didnt really like the “clean-ness” of the dish, it was like drinking cucumber soaked water. Bad

Amuse Bouche: Grilled squid with almond paste. A little too chewy, and I wasnt sure about the combination of flavors. Okay.

Bacalao(Salted codfish) cheek meat, covered wit gelatinous bacalao jaw, served with an acacia honey emulsion.

The fish meat was not too salty, which is the experience i usually get when eating bacalao, it was silky smooth on that pillow of Bacalao jaw meat. The saltiness was cut perfectly with the honey emulsion. It was such a delicate piece of meat, but with strong flavors that amalgamate with one another perfectly. One of the best things Ive ever eaten

Roasted tomato salad and its own cool water.

The tomato was soaked in calcium water which made it so sweet it tasted like raisins, a taste experience that throws your tastebuds on wild journey, and on the right is a tomato sorbet which was so intense i couldnt finish it, I’m not a fan of tomatos, but the dish was good.

Ravioli with crab and fresh walnuts, in a clear, citrus scented consomme.

Ravioli was somewhat bland. The consomme, and therefore the dish, was overpowered by the citrus taste. Bad

Carpaccio accompanied by a sweet and sour dressing, topped with idiazabal cheese and vegetable spinters

Everything about it tells you its a regular beef carpaccio. Except that its not, its made from watermelon, dehydrated then grilled. It was amazing that even the consistency of the watermelon was similar to that of beef (Meaty and could be torn apart, apparently this texture can be obtained by sous-videing watermelon ). The cheese brought the dish to life, delicious, quirky, fun, and beautiful. Very good

Buttery Idiazabal cheese gnocci in salted iberian pork boullion.

Literally a melt in your mouth experience, the cheese flavor was subtle and never overpowering. Each gnocci had a different herb on it, almost as it each had a personality of its own. I thought that the Iberian pork boullion would overpower the cheese, but it was actually a very clean and its flavours managed to stay in the background while the cheese took the stage. Very good

Wild Turbot, under a salted seasoning of borage stalks and reduction of the bones.

Fish was nicely cooked and well seasoned, dish was beautiful to look at, but there were scales on the fish for everyone at the table. I couldnt really get past that. Bad

A Piece of milk fed veal, roasted and perfumed with vine cutting embers, and fragments of thyme, cinders, salt and crisp radishes.

Another of Mugaritz’s infamous creations. The meat is incredibly white because it is milk fed, and it is covered with black vegetable coloring before cooking. The “vine cutting embers” are actually breadsticks.  For all the excitement I had for the dish, visually it was stunning, but it just didnt taste good. The vegetable coloring didnt taste of anything, and the veal was poorly seasoned, albeit nicely cooked. Okay

Tradition, Ocean and land: Braised Iberian Pork tails and pan fried langoustines. Reduced braising juices infused with iberian jamon.

Crispy, chewy, salty, sweet. Possibly my favourite dish of the whole trip in Spain. Black out good, intense flavors in every bite. The saltiness from the iberian pork, the gelatinous texture made the flavours coat and “stick” in your mouth so that they lingered through the entire dish. Each bite of the langoustine was a burst of delicious and sweet sweet succulence that cut the saltiness and umami explosion in your mouth.  Superb

Red Fruits with an uncooked orange leaf soup.

I was very glad this came out right after the previous dish. It was light and refreshing. The herb in the dish threw me off a little, with its strong flavours in a somewhat mellow dish. Okay

Several spoonfuls of clashing contrasts: Celery Ice Cream with Candied Celery Root and Edible Flowers.

I didn’t expect to like this, Im not a big fan of celery, but the taste was fairly mild, and it didnt have the pungent aftertaste that I associate with uncooked celery. Celery root was suprisingly delicious. Whats not to love about candied anything. Very refreshing. Good

WARM ARTISAN TABLET with whipped honey and oats

Vanilla foam with a warm “tablet” made with honey and oats, used to mimick a bar of soap and soap bubbles. The tablet was surprisingly delicious, although it was somewhat tough to bite into. Very fun dish, but hey, any restaurant that serves 3 desserts without any chocolate in sight has to have something quirky up their sleeve. Good

I have to say, though, that because of negative reviews of some of the dishes that were on the seasonal menu, I had asked that two dishes to be swapped in (The cheese gnocci and the iberian pork tails), both were superb dishes. Service was excellent, although it got a little bit sluggish towards the end. Overall, this was one of the great meals of my life. Definitely deserving of a third Michelin star in my opinion