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.

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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