caipirinha-nitro con concentation de estragón
marshmallow de piñones
palomita de Reypenaer a la nuez moscada
oreo de oliva negra con crema doble
disco de mango y oliva negra
melón cru/melón-lyo con hierbas frescas y almendras tiernas a la pimienta
caramelo de aceite de calabaza
nube de palomitas
caviar sférico de melón
almejas al té de alga Nori, al pomelo y sésamo negro
brioche al vapor
espuma de zanahoria/lyo-Marrakesh, espumaire de avellana
mejillones de roca con gargillou de algas y hierbas frescas
quinoa germinada con sopa de tucupí, kaffir y callos de pollo
caracoles con nécoras en escabeche y amaranto al hinojo
hígado de rape en fondue con kumquat al sésamo
ventresca de caballa en escabeche de pollo con cebolla
bogavante al natural
alitas de pollo tandori [sic] con emulsión de ostra y mató aéreo
marshmallow de fruta de la pasión con menta fresca
liquid de melocotón
palet de albaricoque con helado de chocolate con leche y jengibre
I don't think I can add a blow-by-blow review. We didn't take photos or notes, and my memory isn't up to the task of reconstructing all the elements of each of the dishes. Besides, most dishes have have been described and illustrated on certain other food websites (Google them by name). But a few notes:
1. Driving to EB is for tourists. The only way to arrive is by boat. We stayed in Cadaqués, a rather nicer seaside town than Roses, and took a boat around the coast.
The boat pulled up right on the beach, we hopped off onto the sand, and walked up the stairs at the back of the restaurant onto the terrace (so never saw the sign photographed above). The guys with the boat had a picnic on the beach and waited until we were finished (they dropped by when we were on our Morphings to say hi to one of the chefs). I mean, how would you rather end a meal like that, piling into a taxi and navigating mountain roads, or zooming across the Mediterranean in the moonlight?
2. It's astonishingly laid-back. None of us were formally dressed -- I was probably closest, in black dress shirt and trousers; a couple of others wore jeans. They made us feel enormously comfortable and welcome (and I didn't notice many jackets or ties at other tables) -- it's the only restaurant I've ever been where, on offering to take my jacket on arrival, the waiter has made a point of saying they're quite happy for me to hang it on the back of my chair instead. On arrival, as I imagine is usual, we were offered a tour of the kitchen; after the meal our request to take the coffee and digestifs at an outside table was immediately accommodated.
3. And enormously good value. The most expensive bottle of wine we drank (we left the choice to the sommelier) was 40 euros. I saw bottles on the list for 15 and probably less. There wasn't the slightest hint from the staff that they'd prefer us to go for a higher bracket.
4. Oh yeah, the food. I adored it. Previous reports had given me a very good idea of what to expect, but for some reason (the photography?) things seemed much more precise, intricate and carefully presented irl. Everything also looked like food. Many of the dishes were actively delicious, only one was nearly unpleasant, but overall it wasn't nearly as difficult as I had been led to believe. Indeed, one of our party, one of the fussiest eaters I know (no spicy food, no dim sum, no squid, no unusual meat ...) finished every dish. Everything was very intelligent, always compelling, and always just about perfectly executed on its own terms.
I think the debate on avant-garde vs emperor's-new-clothes is never going to get anywhere. After all, it hasn't in other contexts. It just depends how you react to what you're presented with. I've always been of the food-as-craft rather than as-art school, but I have no problem at all with the idea that I can react validly to food in other ways than simple sensual pleasure; while the latter was certainly present, it was clearly not the supreme objective, and that suits me fine. I'd go so far as to say that I enjoyed the meal perhaps more than I would have done one that was much more delicious but less surprising, intellectually engaging, somewhat mysterious and hugely entertaining. I make no contention that this preference of mine is the right one, but there it is. Nor have I any idea how it would change across multiple such experiences -- this was my first time -- but I'd certainly be interested to find out. (I've eaten at the Fat Duck, but while that was fun, I think there's no question my meal at EB was on a different level.) Even the pre-meal kitchen tour plays a part in the careful management of expectation and curiosity: one of us noticed a candyfloss machine, for example, and asked for confirmation that we'd get something from it in our meal; but none of us twigged later on that the dish in question had been the popcorn cloud.
A few comments:
-- the caipirinha was genius. I want to make mine like that: does anyone know where to get liquid nitrogen? (The cocktail is preceded by a small black dot on a spoon, tarragon concentrate, which you are invited to eat just before the drink is ready.)
-- ditto the spherical olives. The look on everyone's face of shock and then delight as they ate their first olives said it all. I was actually a bit sad that this technique wasn't repeated more often. I was rather hoping for the pea ravioli, but wrong season I guess. While I can't make the olives, I can and will serve cheesy popcorn. If you'll forgive me for saying so, the initial onslaught of ultra-sophisticated technique alongside shameless junkfood was a sort of palate cleanser for the mind.
-- one technique that was repeated a noticeable amount was dehydration. This among others certainly gave the sense of variations on themes repeating in different modes throughout the meal. It also led to the one thing I didn't much enjoy, the carrot foam and lyo-Marrakesh (can anyone clarify what Marrakesh, the dried element in question, is)?
-- many dishes involved a tremendous complexity of both technique and choice of elements. There was almost no meat on our menu, at least in recognisable form. On the other hand, a dish like the "crazy salad" involved a large number of often mysterious items; we asked about a couple which turned out to be a sort of leaf veg local to the area, and the hearts of margarita flowers. At other times you were offered an in-depth exploration of a very specific thing, like the (very lightly and beautifully cooked) mussels, which were to be taken one by one, alternating with a gargouillou of different seaweeds.
-- there was also a clear attempt to make you focus on less normally-highlighted flavours. The terroso dish, for example, was very terroso. Knockout "main" for me was the very-lightly-cooked and raw-in-appearance ventresca (or "ventresca"?) of mackerel. I've completely blanked on what the "bogavante al natural" was; any ideas?
-- it took another member of our party to point out that Morphings ... is a bad pun.
-- eating at other Barca restaurants afterwards is very odd; you really can see Adria's shadow over everything.