Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Celler de Can Roca, Girona Spain

I have been delaying this post as this would be the longest of all the posts I have from my recent trip to Spain, but have found some time to do it already. During my yearly trips to Barcelona, I try to make it a point to have one "stellar" dinner. Last year it was EL Bulli and this year its Celler de Can Roca. The restaurant is owned/operated by the Roca Brothers , each with their specific role (Joan is the head Chef, Josep the sommelier and Jordi the Pastry Chef). It currently is a 2 star Michelin (will probably get the third this year) and is in the list of 50 best Restaurants in the world (ranked number 26).

Its not that easy to get a reservation in this restaurant (not quite as hard as El Bulli thou) but we were able to get a table for 6 for dinner. Since the restaurant is in Girona (1.5 hours away from Barcelona) we decided to move our reservation for lunch instead. We also rented a van with a driver to take us there, since they are very strict in Spain with the "drinking and driving" and obviously we all wanted to drink....

We arrived at around 2 PM and they lead us to our table. Very nice decor with hints of minimalism. Our table was in a corner by the courtyard (all enclosed in glass) so we had plenty natural light. We all decided to have the 'large' degustation menu - anything less and we would have probably regretted it. They started by serving us the 'snacks':

Lavender crackers, Caramelized black olive, Carrots with orange, "Sferification" of Cockles (Berberechos) with Guava juice and Campari, Skin of Cucumber soup wth popcorn made of garlic soup and Pigeon Bombon with Bristol cream. What I remember most was the sfera of cockle which went great with the bitterness of the guava and campari. Also interesting to note the 'popcorn' made of garlic soup.

Next was the Fig with Majorero cheese, guava Granita, arugula and green asparagus juice. Majorero cheese is goat milk cheese, similar to manchego cheese but a bit nuttier. It comes from Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands. Great combination of the cheese and the guava Granita. They immediately served us the Melon with cured Jamon de Jabugo, which is a classic dish from Spain. Although I liked the melon puree/foam, the star of this dish was the Jamon Jabugo, which was 5 star quality.

After a short break, they served us Chablis oysters and Green Olive Parmentier. The oysters were wrapped with a very thin raw mushroom, mushroom foam. They then poured a cream which I cant remember but what stood out aside from the oyster was the little white balls, which were  sugar balls with a light liquor. It gave a good contrast to the dish. The olive Parmentier was a large green 'sferification' with foam. Inside the green olive was  a warm liquid which was made to taste exactly like a 'ensaladilla rusa' (russian salad, which is a salad that has egg, carrots, potatoes, peas and mayonnaise. Indeed a very creative way to serve an ensaladilla rusa.

Next came the Amontillado-steamed King Prawn and the Porcini Souffle. The King prawn is steamed/infused with Amontillado wine, a variety of Sherry from a town called Montilla. A very simple dish but very intense and fresh favors. The Porcini Souffle was probably one of my favorite dishes and the best souffle I've had in a while. Wrapped with a very thin porcini mushroom was a porcini-souffle-cream. Very tasty and the crunchiness of the mushroom gave good texture to this dish.

Then we had the 3 main dishes of the menu: Lenguado with grilled onion leeks (Lenguado is a type of fish), Kid belly fillet with goats milk Parmentier and Goose terrine with apricot compote.My favorite was the kid Belly Fillet (Cabrito), perfectly tender with the crispy skin on top, with a slight hint of mint. The Goose with Apricot compote was a good way to end the meal. with slight hints of sweetness to prepare us for the dessert.

For Dessert, they served us 2 desserts each. 'Foie Gras Nougat with soy sauce' and 'Anarchy'. The Foie Gras Nougat was a contrast between sweet and salty, crunchy and fondant, toasted and raw. An ode to the Chaos theory. Anarchy was more Chaos in the plate. 40 ingredients made up this plate. If I could remember all of them I'd list  them down but the mixture of all ingredients blended so well that not one of the ingredient really stood out. Simply great. We had a third dessert which is one of their specialties: 'A Trip to Havana'. A Cigar made of ice cream and chocolate, with ashes and a mojito. You had to dip the cigar in the ashes, bite it and take a spoon of the frozen mojito. I can still taste the flavors of the cigar in my mouth as I remember this dish now. Simply another masterpiece from Jordi Roca.

For wines, we had Gramona white wine from Penedes, Ctonia, a white wine from the Emporda region of Catalunya (Costa Brava) and for red we had a bottle of Terramoll, a Cabernet from a friends vineyard located in Ibiza. All were great wines and combined very well with most of the dishes we had, most specially the Terramoll with the Cabrito.

This is probably my second best dining experience after El Bulli. The creativity and use of the best ingredients by the Roca Brothers has really stood out and have earned them International fame with their innovative cuisine. After the meal we had a chance to speak to the Chef and he was very open in explaining some of his techniques. I do hope I can come back again. Just as an anecdote, we started our meal at 2 PM and finished at around 6 PM...4 hours of one of the better dining experiences I've had.


Noel said...

Great write-up of an astoundingly creative meal. I will be using your travel/didning-logue for my trip to Spain next year. From Bordeaux, we drive down.

Great info and pics!


Miguel said...

Thanks Noel. Give me the details of your trip so I can recommend places..

S Lloyd said...

Thanks for sharing. Excellent report. I am planning to visit Spain (a Gastro tour) and they have too much choices to chose from on the higher end. El Celler sounds like my top choice up to now, but I think San Sebastian's party ambience might win the draw (in which case, I may chose Mugaritz, Martin Berrasategui).

Miguel said...

let me know if you need help on where to you can see on my blog, I go there quite often.

I will also be in San Sebastian next month..planning Arzak and others as well.