This continues a mini-series of postings on our recent trip from Daglan, for a vacation in Barcelona and the Costa Brava area of northeast Spain.
In my last posting, I provided an introduction and overview comments on our September 23rd lunch in Girona at El Celler de Can Roca, which this year regained its title as No. 1 among The World’s 50 Best Restaurants.
Today I’ll start showcasing the actual food, starting with the amuse-bouches and then the entrées. As it happens, these dishes include two of the most memorable taste sensations of the meal. As you’ll see throughout this and the next couple of postings (main courses, and then desserts), a big part of the experience at El Celler de Can Roca is theatre, including different, and often unusual, flatware and accessories at every step.
And speaking of theatre, here is how the first amuse-bouches were presented — inside a black paper globe for each of us seated at our table for 10:
The dramatic presentation illustrates the fact that the next few taste treats represent different foods from around the world. To be precise (verbatim from our menu): Mexico: “burrito” with mole poblano and guacamole; Turkey: tartlet of vine leaf with lentil purée, eggplant and spices, goat yoghurt and raw cucumber; China: pickled vegetables with plum cream; Morocco: almond, rose, honey, saffron, ras el hanout, goat yoghurt; Korea: panco fried bread, bacon with soya sauce, kimchi and sesame oil.
And here’s how some of these looked, after the paper globe was taken away:
The next set of amuse-bouches was called “Memories of a bar in the suburbs of Girona,” and the accessory this time was a pop-up made of white cardboard, meant to depict the three Roca brothers as youngsters in their parents’ bar. Here’s the pop-up “bar” that was set on my plate:
Once this little stage setting was in place, our servers inserted several amuse-bouches. This time, we had (verbatim from our menu): “breaded squid, kidneys in Sherry, potato and onion omelet, anchovy bone in rice tempura, Campari bonbon.” All of the little bites were tasty, but my favourite up to this point in our lunch was — believe it or not — the anchovy bone in rice tempura. It was tiny (as you’ll see in the photo below) but crunchy and full of flavour. Delicious!
Then came what I thought was the most amazing creation of the entire meal. The menu describes it simply as green olive ice cream. What arrived at our table were a few small trees, with green olives hanging from the branches by tiny silver hooks (stamped with the ever-present R, for Roca).
Each of us were able to pluck two olives from our tree, and I thought they were brilliant. Somehow the olives hung on the tree branches without dripping, but they melted immediately once in the mouth, bursting with the unmistakable taste of green olives. Wonderful! As you’ll see just behind the tree in the photo below, we also received small wooden platters with yet another amuse-bouche — “Crispy corn with Iberian suckling pig rind.”
Our next tasting arrived on yet another beautiful and unusual accessory — a sort of silver tree. Here’s ours, holding the next set of amuse–bouches for Jan and me: “Coral: Pickled barnacles with bay leaves and albarino. Seabream ceviche.”
Because Jan is allergic to gluten, and because there must have been a gluten-containing product in one of the amuse–bouche, a server brought Jan her own special treat, including a cream of pine nuts, in this special spoon:
At last, we arrived at the final amuse–bouche, listed as “Saint George’s mushrooms bonbon”:
When the parade of amuse-bouches ended, it was time for the soup — well, soups actually. First came Autumn vegetable stock, with “mashed parsnip, carrot, liquified pumpkin, spinach emulsion, field peas, flat beans, flowers and leaves.” Here it is:
And finally we were offered this: “Soup of pistachio, cucumber, melon, goat cheese and pomegranate.” Another lovely bowl.
And thus endeth the beginning of our lunch. In my next post, I’ll unveil the “main” courses, what you might call (in France) the plat principal. Be prepared.