Saturday, August 16, 2008

El Bulli - sección tres

All right, still with me?

I hope so!

Only part three of the El Bulli experience left....

We continued with green walnuts and with endive, this was a bit like a creamy stew, with Roquefort, tiny little endives caramelized and slightly drizzled with a bit of passion fruit essence.

I enjoyed this dish although it was a little bit strange, a bit crunchy and a little odd but tasty, with most of the flavors coming together quite nicely and not tasting heavy at all. Oddly the Roquefort didn't taste so good. It was in little pillowy pockets (you can see one on the lower left hand side and another on the upper right) and didn't seem to go together with the rest.

Another gnocchi dish followed, gnocchi of polenta with coffee and safran yuba. It was quite nice although again it was again a film encapsulated burst of liquid cornmeal. You can definitely taste the ground coffee but not so much the saffron. I quite liked this one as it tasted more substantial than some of the other dishes.

Ok, this was the one dish I had differently than everyone else. This was named sea anemone 2008. And sadly, it sent me running to the bathroom. It smelled awful, looked awful and from what I gathered from everyone pushing it around, it didn't taste great. It consisted of oysters and rabbit brains. Sadly, the brain had a visible bloody vein running through it, which the boy had to pick around. I was proud of him for actually trying what he termed as "zombie food".

I was given a dish of ackees, a fruit commonly used in Jamaican cooking. It was served with cooked cucumbers and tasted quite mild, a little bit like corn. The cucumbers are quite good. Reminded me of a cooked pickle I had in a lovely African stew once.

The next dish consisted was abalone, accompanied by shimeiji mushrooms, fat of Iberian pork (the clear big in the middle) and flavored with ginger. It was definitely fresh abalone, not the sugared heart ('tong sum') preserved abalone but still good. It was very Asian flavored with strong soy notes. I enjoyed this but couldn't manage to eat the fat despite my usual liking of fat!

The next course was called castanet, a distinctive part of the pig, which the waitress kindly pointed out was somewhere on the side. It tasted very much like sweetbread. On the side was lemon soup with baby shitake mushrooms with braised cactus on the left hand side. The soup was light and flavorful from the shitake and the castanet was a bit tougher than sweetbreads. The cactus was quite juicy and slightly tart.

The flower canape which followed was the first of the dessert selections. It was very pretty to look at with edible flowers sprinkled over the top and a small mouthful of sorbet at the end all on a thin plank of meringue (can you sense a theme for this year yet?). Again, as it was flowers, it wasn't to my taste but it was inoffensive and light with a refreshing sorbet as the last flavor.

Next came a box with 'trufitas', or liquid truffles. Obviously, this being El Bulli, you don't expect a normal truffle. This was truffle all right but truffle the fungi and not the chocolate. Rolled in cacao powder it was the true essence of truffle which lingers in your mouth.

Carrying on with the cacao theme was the simply named cacao, which was a beautifully molded shell made to look like a cacao pod. Sadly I don't remember much of the taste of what was underneath the sugar shell but in my notes are cinnamon, coffee jelly, macadamia nut. Perhaps the others could help me out?

At this point, as Umami and my birthday was a scant few days apart and this being the eve of mine, Cha Xiu Bao had informed the staff who came out with two huge cards with pop up birthday cakes and stuck a candle for us to blow out. It was amusing but less amusing when the hurriedly, a scant few seconds after we blew out the candle, rushed to close the cards to take them away. They were also not amused when Cha Xiu Bao jokingly asked if they would sing like they did at TGIF.

We were then presented with the first of the ''morphings", which was a chocolate egg filled with a sort of strawberry truffle. It was very good quality chocolate and definitely very satisfying for my sweet tooth. The egg was speckled with gold and very pretty to look at.

The next was a Catalan berry biscuit with mint, very similar to the Parmesan and tomato biscuits we had at the beginning. However, it did taste quite dry and not as concentrated in berry-ness. I somehow managed to forget the photo for this one but you can see the pics on Cha Xiu Bao's Flickr account.

Next we were served a very moist yogurt sponge cake with apricot. The sponge cake looked a sea sponge and was very frilly and hole-y. It was nice and light and although I was suffering a bit from food coma, I couldn't help but pick at it.

Finally we were presented with amber filled liquid balls. I don't remember eating it and the only thing the boy can tell me is that it was very sweet and syrupy and infused with a delicate flavor which he can't remember. We are rubbish at this...

So finally, what say I about the meal? It was interesting. I don't regret going at all. It was different and very special. However, as far as the taste of the meal went, I can't say I loved it. I admit it may have been a combination my own slight nausea, my distaste for a few of the ingredients which were frequently used (umeboshi, shiso and flowers), and my own lack of refined taste buds but it just didn't do it for me. And sadly, I feel a bit let down. I expected the different, unexpected textures and visuals but I also expected it to taste GOOD. And while most of it was ok, nothing I really wanted to repeat except the razor clams.

Moreover I am off molecular gastronomy. If I've tried the best and wasn't impressed, I ain't gonna try the rest. (My grandfather, a published poet, is turning in his grave now...).

So when Susan suggested a trip to a new, cool restaurant with fancy food on a recent trip to London, I suggested more solid, non-fusion food instead.

I'm expecting some controversy and comments of how unqualified I am to make this review and I agree with all of them but again, this was MY experience and I feel that I have to be honest.

Now will someone get me a bowl of noodles please?


Susan said...

Jessie, stop being modest. You don't have unrefined taste buds, the meal just wasn't to your liking. Not everybody loves EB - it's a controversial place. As I've said before, my first meal there was astonishingly good - exciting, innovative and delicious. Second time was not as delicious (there were several "misses" as far as the taste) but it was still exciting and innovative. I guess when you're that creative, not everything can be perfection (although you would wish it to be).

John Placko said...

Thank you so much for posting all the photos and descriptions of the food at El Bulli. I'm hoping to get a reservation there next year.

SteamyKitchen said...

oysters and rabbit brains! ok. they shoulda just called it "2008" and left it at that.