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docsconz

El Poblet

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This was a restaurant that I expected to be wowed by and I wanted to be wowed by, but instead I was disappointed by. As I hope to show, the food was creative and beautifully presented, the underlying product fine and the location lovely, but unfortunately the food lacked pizazz on the palate - at least compared to the products themselves and other ways of preparing them. Indeed, this was the kind of meal that helped me to understand some of the criticisms of creative cuisine. Nothing was bad and some dishes were quite delicious, but it appeared to me that the principle goal of the modern cooking here was to show off technical wizardry. While I am all for technical wizardry, it should be used in the service of preparing food that is at least as good as that prepared more conventionally. My impression here was that the food lost something in the translation from pristine product to final dish. Instead of a synergy, there was a subtraction - at least to my palate (and my wife's) on the day that w were there. Despite that, as with my experience at Pierre Gagnaire, there clearly is enough artistry and expertise that I would try it again should I find myself in the area with time beyond what I would need to dine at the places I didn't get to this time.

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The approach. Yes, that is a Ferrari at the lower left of the photo. :wink:

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The sign.

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The entry.

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The table setting.

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The art on the wall. There were several of these, each with a different bird shape. i thought they were pretty cool.

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The bread

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The olive oil for the bread.

There are a number of menu options available at El Poblet, including a couple of degustations and a la carte. The carte tended to more traditional preparations while the principal degustation was definitely more Vanguardista. Given Quique Dacosta's reputation as a bright light of the vanguardista style and our mutual interest in that style of cooking, we chose the degustation. One very nice touch was that the degustation price included wine accompaniments. The wording below in italicized bold is taken from the menu.

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They started us off with a cocktail that included lemon, apple and ginger. It had a nice balance between bitter and sweet.

The drink was intended to accompany the first course.

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Rum and Coke of Foie with a Mist of Lemon Zest and Wild Rocket This dish was light, creamy and not too sweet. With a subtle foie flavor this dish, rich and elegant, was one of the best foie preparations of the week.

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Crunchy Artichokes in vinegar of Spanish "Champagne", dressed on green olive oil with filaments of saffrony gelatin and wild oranges. This was a nice dish. It had bracing acidity from the vinegar and orange and nice textural contrasts. The saffron flavor was strong while that of the orange was subtle.

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The Living Forest: The suggestion is a device and way to understand the cooking. 'The Living Forest' represents perfumes, textures and products that we can find in a walk around one of our forests. Go into it.Served at room temperature, this was a beautiful dish. Though it was flavorful with pulverized vegetables and mushrooms, it was not transcendant. Stylistically it reminded me very much of the work of Adria, though to my palate it lacked the flavor harmony present in Adria's similar work as this tended to an overly sweet balance. This was the first dish where in retrospect I began to think that the dish did not equal the sum of the parts.

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Hoarfrost (Dried Fruit, Trees' Hoarfrost and Shrimp) To eat the hoarfrost produced on nut trees during cold nights is a magic way to refresh oneself. The smoke scent of the fire, made by countrymen to allow defrosting, stimulates us to appreciate this dish and this moment to eat hoarfrost produced on tree leaves.The "hoarfrost" served cold and composed of pistachio and olive oil cream, by itself was fairly bland. When paired with the shrimp, the combination worked.

Our wine for the next few courses was a Ginesta from the Penedes.

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Abstraction of the Sea. (Seaweed and Mushroom Salad with Rice Vinegar) on a layer of potatoes with bitter almond aioli and a gelatinous seaweed veil - evoking a hit from the sea Possibly my least favorite dish of the meal, I found it bland with no real appeal. It didn't evoke any conception of the sea in my mind. Though this was a pretty composition, I thought the dish a failure in terms of taste or its evocativeness. Maybe it could have used an ipod. :wink:

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Oysters "inspired by the Guggenheim Museum (Bilbao). A signature dish of El Poblet, I like this more than my wife and others that I have spoken with. The large Brittany oyster was warm, but tasted very much of itself. I found this to be much more evocative of the sea than the previous course. This dish was one of the highlights of the meal for me and one of the better composed oyster courses that I have ever had (I still prefer cold, plain oysters with a little lemon most of all). The Guggenheim "shell" in mother-of-pearl color was a fitting case for the briny morsel.

Dacosta is well known for his rice dishes. The next course would be our opportunity to try one.

to be continued...


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Sticky Senia Rice on a bed of smoked eel with pearls of red fruits and wild rosemary flowers from Montgó It would be difficult to find a prettier rice dish than this sticky and soupy meloso one, but as pretty as it was, I found it to be unbalanced with its flavor profile as the dominant tone came from the sweetness of cherry.

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Prawn, Denia's Rose

Wine change: Guitian Godello 2004.

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Prawn, Denia's Red More than any other this dish illustrates the lack of synergy in the cooking that we experienced with this meal. The "rose" prawn, while artful, interesting and still tasty, paled in comparison to the simply prepared "red" prawn served simultaneously. The rose element served to distract and detract from the brilliance of the basic prawn. It seemed that the dish was contrived not as an enhancement, but as a device. I like devices, but this one didn't work for me.

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Shallow-fried red mullet coated with different pulses (beans, peas, mange tout, pea blossoms) with a delicate gel of the fried bones and eucalyptus scent The fish was well prepared as were the pulses. Each individually were good - together in no way better than the individual elements. I preferred eating the components separately. Given that it was May 1st, a holiday, I asked the waitress if the fishermen fished that day. She replied that she "didn't know."

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The Other Moon of Valencia This was a dish comprised of calamari and sepia that was full of tonal and textural contrasts. The construction was similar to a calamari meringue with an ink fondant within and plenty of sepia croquantes outside for contrast. The most technically impressive dish of the day and one of the most technically impressive dishes in my experience, it still left my palate underwhelmed in terms of flavor. I love calamari and can think of many preparations from simple to complex that I would have preferred eating. Visually striking and conceptually cool, this dish ultimately lacked the flavor elements of a truly great dish.

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Sprouted" Seeds, berries and pulses with dice of pork dewlap (neck) caramelized with paprika from Jarandilla de la Vera. (Representation of the plant beginning with the seed, then the roots, the leaves, the blooms and the fruit.) This dish was fine when I managed a bite of pork along with the other elements, but it needed much more pork as the vegetal elements were rather bland on their own. The concept of incorporating all aspects of a plant's evolution was interesting, but unapparent on the plate itself.

to be continued...


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Wine Change: Alvaro Palacios Finca Dofi Priorato 2004

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Hen from the Golden Eggs Egg cooked sous vide with a golden croquante and vegetable mushroom soup. The egg was very lightly cooked and almost raw. This is a kind of dish that I usually love, but this was just ok despite its visual interest.

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Borage stalks, fleshy aloe vera, wild white thistle from Montgo and grilled raw red The "grilled raw red" is not a mis-print. That is exactly what the menu said and I have no idea what it means. This was a hodge-podge of a dish that did not nothing for me from a taste perspective. I simply did not like or understand it in any way other than the fact that it had an interesting presentation.

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Neck end of Iberian pork "Joselito" on a gel of Velvet Horn (Codium Tomentosum) with our fresh seaweeds and smoked wood scent This dish was nearly great, as the cooked rare pork was in itself spectacular and delicious. What left me scratching my head though was the accompaniment. While it did not detract from the dish it didn't add anything discernible either.

Wine Change: Coto de Hayas Garnacha from Campo de Borja. The other wines were good and fine accompaniments, but this wine was quite unusual and worth commenting on. A dessert wine, chocolate and cherry flavors were clear and predominant over any others. Perhaps a bit dual dimensional, it was nevertheless quite tasty and different from any other wine I have ever had. It also matched well with the desserts.

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Infusion of Stevia Rebaudiana with Petals, Flowers, Wild Herbs and Apple Peel.Light and delicious with a floral taste of summer, elements of citric sourness provided a nice contrast. Before this trip I had never heard of stevia, a South American plant known for its own type of sugar. I would not be surprised to see more of it in the future.

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Aloe and Violets Beautiful and delicious - one of the clear winners of the meal.

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Panettone of Chocolate....Torreblanca Family's Tribute Yes this did use the famous panettone of Paco Torreblanca as its principle ingredient. It was really, really delicious as odd as it was to see someone else's dessert creation incorporated into another as an integral part. I am glad that I had that. It was a particularly fine match with the wine.

In summary, the lunch was good, but maddeningly erratic with a sense that much was done primarily for visual effect and less for gustatory effect as I feel that a number of dishes were either hindered by their preparations or were simply conglomerations of ingredients without any clear purpose or benefit aside from the visual. Certainly there were dishes that I enjoyed very much, but with the exceptions of the Denia red prawn and the desserts, as good as some dishes were I do not feel that the manipulation of the cooks were much to the benefit of the ingredients beyond what less elaborate preparations would have been. I enjoy culinary artistry as an important component of a fine dining experience, but the bottom line is that the dish must still be delicious and the artistry must add something beyond the purely visual. I don't insist that a vanguard dish be better than the sum of its parts, but it should at least equal them. many of the dishes herre fell short of that mark to me even though most were still good.

I would be interested in returning to El Poblet, but primarily to try some of Dacosta's simpler preparations.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Had a most extraordinary and startling meal(s) at el poblet.

it was everything a great meal should be and more. for me, the reason why it the best alta cocina meal i have had by far in Spain is not because of the obvious vanguard elements present but because i experienced the best quality products i have had here with the possible exception of etxebarri. it walks the line with finesse and balance of superior ingredients and contemporary technique in which one does not do disservice to the other.We had the tasting menu with a substitution of the foie gras for the main course instead of the pork neck.

Masterful. Quique is the real deal.

It was so good that we changed plans and went back the next evening to try the a la carte menu. We ended up trying almost all the dishes the restaurant has to offer. We found all the selections stellar with a nit here and there but the intelligence, absolutely no wasted movement or flourish and the incredibly impeccable ingredients made it a highlight of a very good trip. this coupled with another stellar performance at mugaritz the night before (followed by a long drive!) shows a developing maturity at the very top level, and a separation taking place between the great and the good or merely interesting.

Highly recommended. Worth a special journey.

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Doc you rock!

Someday we should join efforts and photo-eat together.

Had Quique's "Sticky Senia Rice on a bed of smoked eel with pearls of red fruits and wild rosemary flowers from Montgó" at the James Beard Foundation's Spain's 10 event. The rosemary and red fruits were great, not sure about the rice and eel. Felt too much like the congee it wasn't. He also made a "golden egg" (which I believe was a slow poached egg with chicken consomme compounded with gold leaf and garnished with more gold leaf nuggest). It tasted like a whole bunch of karats.


Edited by harlanturk (log)

Michael Harlan Turkell, PHOTOGRAPHER

"BACK OF THE HOUSE" Project, www.harlanturk.com , PLOG: harlanturk.blogspot.com

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Doc, as usual, great pictures and reviews

I think the pictures you took are one of the best in this forum - consistently clear

The food presentation looks wonderful, sorry that you didn't have a good one

Is it because the expectation is too high? Or, perhaps you could not help but to compare with El Bulli, which seems to be your fav. rest.?

Where is it by the way (big or small town)? Is it hard to reach the restaurant, like Can Fabes? Thanks

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Bu Pun Su:

It's not so hard to find El Poblet, even if in this next 2 monthes i would avoid this part of Spain, full of people and tourists.

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Can see in the photo: Paco Roncero, Joan Roca and...who are the others?

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Doc you rock!

Someday we should join efforts and photo-eat together.

Had Quique's "Sticky Senia Rice on a bed of smoked eel with pearls of red fruits and wild rosemary flowers from Montgó" at the James Beard Foundation's Spain's 10 event. The rosemary and red fruits were great, not sure about the rice and eel. Felt too much like the congee it wasn't. He also made a "golden egg" (which I believe was a slow poached egg with chicken consomme compounded with gold leaf and garnished with more gold leaf nuggest). It tasted like a whole bunch of karats.

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Left to Roca, Alberto Chictote, from Madrid's Nodo and Pandelujo. Some say he's one of the best chefs in Madrid... when he feels like cooking.

Right to Roca, Dani García from Calima. According to my meal there a couple of months ago, probably one of the top 5 chefs in the country.

Edit: Oh, and of course, between Chicote and Roncero, Quique Dacosta from El Poblet.


Edited by pedro (log)

PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

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Is this place still going? What on earth does their website mean?

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I hope it is, I have 7 days work stage planned in the kitchen there in October, I can look at Quiquedacosta.com , also
Is this place still going? What on earth does their website mean?

When you've completed your stage at El Poblet, you should come out to Bocairent and eat with us at Ferrero. Neither the restaurant nor eGullet will let me write about the place as it would violate the code of ethics for an employee, so I'm really interested to see independent reviews. :rolleyes:

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