This continues a mini-series of postings on our recent trip from our French village of Daglan, for a vacation in Barcelona and the Costa Brava area of northeast Spain.
My last posting showcased the parade of amuse-bouches and soups that kicked off our September 23rd lunch at Girona’s El Celler de Can Roca, reputedly 2015’s No. 1 restaurant in the world.
Today, I’ll unveil what you might call the “mains,” or else the fish/seafood/meat dishes. Because our lunch was a tasting menu, all the dishes were still pretty small as opposed to “main” in the sense of large. As it happens, it was in this part of our meal where I would have liked a change or two. Suggestions to come at the end of this posting, so stay tuned.
First off came this dish which, for me, remains something of a mystery. I know I ate it, I know I thought it tasted fine, but I didn’t really understand what it was. The menu explains: “‘Ajoblanco’ ice cream with meringue of Jerez, chlorophyll and sardine.” (Evidently, ajo blanco is a traditional Spanish cold soup, made with almonds, garlic, and olive oil.) Here’s my serving:
Next came one of the more visually stunning dishes. This was”Mackerel with pickles and mullet roe,” more fully described as “mackerel sauce with white wine, lemon, capers and chilies in vinegar, fried tomato, mullet roe, mackerel marinated in sugar and salt.” The sauce at top and bottom was made to resemble the skeleton of the fish, and so it all looked as good as it tasted. Bravo!
Perhaps the most beautiful of all our dishes at lunch.
This next dish was unusual primarily because the worst looking bits were perhaps the best tasting. This was “Prawns marinated with rice vinegar,” further described as including “head juice, crispy prawn legs, seaweed velouté and phytoplankton.” Our server encouraged us to eat the prawn legs and I’d have to say that they were yummy. The prawns were good too, but I think the blob of phytoplankton could have been left in the sea. Here it is:
At this point in the meal, I may have lost the plot temporarily, because I don’t seem to have a photo of “Oyster with anemone,” which evidently included “anemone sauce, ‘ajoblanco’ sand, tender walnut, seaweeds and apple.” Late note: After this was first posted, our friend Dave emailed me from Toronto with a photo of the oyster dish he had taken at our lunch. So, courtesy of Dave, here it is:
I did gather my wits in time to get a photograph of the next dish, which was “Confit skate with mustard oil, beurre noisette, honey, chardonnay vinegar, bergamot, aromatic mustard, confit capers and smoked hazelnuts.” (Phew!) Delicious, but just a bit too tiny — I think that my fish was eaten before I had consumed even half of the various sauces and decorations.
To finish off the fish/seafood section of this symphony, we were served “Blackspot seabream with ‘samfaina’,” which is a kind of cooked-down, finely chopped ratatouille. Here’s my dish:
Then we left the sea, so to speak, climbed up onto the land, and were served “Iberian suckling pig with figs and carob mole.” The pig had been cooked, we were told, for 36 hours, presumably at an incredibly low temperature. Whatever — I could have eaten three or four more of these servings. Here it is:
Moving right along, we went from suckling pig to “Lamb with eggplant and chickpea purée, lamb’s trotters and spicy tomato.” What can I say? It was good!
Last of the meat dishes was “Veal oyster blade and tuber aestivum, marrow, tendons and avocado.” Of course it was good, but by this point my interest was flagging a bit. Here’s my serving:
And that wraps up the fish/seafood/meat section of the lunch. Delicious, of course, but I was bothered just a bit by the steady procession of very small dishes that — while original — were somehow a bit similar. Most of the flesh seemed to have been cooked sous vide (at low temperatures, for a long time) and most of the dishes were saucy, if not soupy.
Somewhere along the line, I would have knocked out at least a couple if not three or four dishes, and inserted one larger “main” — perhaps a larger piece of the roast suckling pig. Or an unusual seafood dish like the one that was served to our friend Jill, on her trip to Spain last year — a dish that featured a fairly large octopus tentacle. Or perhaps an entire deboned poussin (young chicken) that was stuffed with something amazing and then roasted. I would have liked the change, and would have seen the “main” dish as a centrepiece of the meal.
However, I am pretty confident that Chef will not be calling upon me for suggestions, since his restaurant is already No. 1 in the world, which is hard to top. Ah well.
In my next posting, I’ll conclude this review of El Celler de Can Roca with a look at the desserts — one of which was probably the star of the entire meal.