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docsconz

Aligue

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I arrived in Catalunya this morning after an overnight flight. we were picked up at the airport by some local friends who brought us to their house in Manresa to freshen up then brought us to their favorite local restaurant, Aligue with Chef Bembi Aligue, described as an associate and protege of Ferran Adria and a significant chef in his own right, highly regarded in Catalunya. I can't recall having seen this restaurant mentioned before on eGullet and I don't understand why. It was an exceptional start to our trip and has set the bar high. I will provide details including photos at a later date. Some highlights amongst many (about 15 different dishes) included fresh warm clam with a white bean puree, cold foie gras with fig sauce (amazing!), lobo del mar with local mushrooms, the best trotters and veal marrow I've ever had, and veal leg cooked sous vide and served with a port based sauce that tasted like it had maple syrup in it. It didn't.

More to come.


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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Glad you liked it, John. Just some food for thought: this is a no-Michelin stars restaurant, no doubt the best in Manresa, but of the same level as at least 100 other restaurants in Catalonia alone. That should give us an idea of the general level, of true depth, that's now been reached by restaurants in Spain after the fast progress of the past decade.


Victor de la Serna

elmundovino

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Glad you liked it, John. Just some food for thought: this is a no-Michelin stars restaurant, no doubt the best in Manresa, but of the same level as at least 100 other restaurants in Catalonia alone. That should give us an idea of the general level, of true depth, that's now been reached by restaurants in Spain after the fast progress of the past decade.

Victor,

I have to think that the reason this restaurant has no Michelin stars is because it is not a particularly fancy or luxurious restaurant, at least as far as ambiance and service, both of which are still very good, however. Those aspects are just not on a par with the very top restaurants. The food was IMO exceptional even as compared to previous Catalan experiences at Can Boix, Alkimia and Hispania. It so far has been the best meal I have had in Spain - ever. I will post more extensively including some photos after I return home.

The above being said, the real tests are about to begin. Tonight we go to Abac. Tomorrow Sant Pau for lunch and then Cinc Sentits for dinner (I will be hurting tomorrow night when I get to bed :biggrin: ). Wednesday Can Fabes, then Can Roca on Thursday before we head to San Sebastian.

We had a lovely day today in the Priorato with visits to two wineries - Josep Puig's Vinedos de Ithaca, where he and his daughter make a number of wines including Odysseus and then to Masia Duch, where we tasted a number of excellent wines including barrel samples and had a delightful lunch o0f traditional Catalan dishes including white and black butifarra, llonganissa, coca, esqueixada, escalibada, guinea fowl and merge blanc, an almond milk pudding. The wines were 1998 Bressol and El Tancat, both delicious.

It was a marvellous weekend in Barcelona as we stumbled upon one of their big holidays - El Merce', which also happeneed to coincide with the end of The Forum, a major international cultural exchange. Particular highlights included witnessing the human ladders The Castellers, sardanas and the most amazing fireworks display set to music last night over the Barcelona Harbor.

Last nights dinner consisted of various Tapas including perfectly fried shrimp, jamon de la pata negra, Cecina and various other delights.


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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I have to think that the reason this restaurant has no Michelin stars is because it is not a particularly fancy or luxurious restaurant,

I'm afraid that's not it, John. There are Michelin stars given to no-frills restaurants in Spain. No, the real but never admitted reason is that Spain is on a numerus clausus diet by Michelin - meaning that the head office will not let the Spanish inspectors award more than approximately 120 total stars in the whole country. The number of stars for Spanish restaurants has hardly budged for the past 20 years - while Spanish restaurants, of course, were budging a lot!


Edited by vserna (log)

Victor de la Serna

elmundovino

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Docsconz, when you arrive at Can Fabes, drop by in the kitchen, it would be a pleasure to meet you. It is also my last day of work there.

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Simon, where were you when I was at MB's in San Sebastian?!!!!!! I'm sorry we didn't meet. Where are you going next?

John, I'm so happy you are off to a great start. Who's in your group? It seems you are on your own as well? Keep those reports coming.

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Simon, I will look for you tomorrow.

Victor, after Abac and Sant Pau, I now understand where you are coming from. Aligue is indeed excellent, but Abac and Sant Pau are both exceptional.

Robert, My wife and I are part of a small group through the Culinary Institute of America. We are led by Michael Coon and Nancy Harmon Jenkins. It is absolutely first class. We are having a lot of fun. I am expecting a few new eGullet members at the end of the trip.

I will post details and photos of our experiences on separate threads after I arrive home. I still have a lot more to go.

I had a nice visit with BCNChef at Cinc Sentits tonight. Details again will follow on a separate thread.


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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We had hoped to arrange a visit with our Catalan friends to El Bulli, but that was not to happen. Instead they invited us to lunch at Aligue, Manresa’s best restaurant with Chef Bimbe Aligue, who has worked with Ferran Adria and is well known amongst Catalan Modernist Culinary Circles. Chef Aligue provided us with a degustacion rich in variety, quality, creativity and especially flavor. The room itself was comfortable, though clearly secondary to the food. The service was efficient and competent, though details were below a three star level – details like the silverware not being replaced after every course. The food, on the other hand was simply outstanding in both taste and presentation. We were started with some sweet shrimp marinated in vinegar and olive oil.

The first course presented as part of the degustacion was a warm clam with white been puree served in a cup. This is one of Chef Aligue’s original signature dishes from when he first opened the restaurant. The clam (almeja) was plump, warm and succulent with the rich blanket of velvety bean puree. We started our meal with a delicious cava from Huguet from the 2002 vintage.

Next came a dish with mushrooms and lardoons that deftly combined the deep porkiness of the lardoons with the subtle local mushrooms. Outstanding! This was followed by another fine use of the local mushrooms, this time in a vegetable stock.

The next course was one of the finest renditions if not the finest I’ve ever had of cold fois. This was prepared with a fig reduction. The fois was sliced thinly and curled over the reduction. The silkiness and flavor of the fois married well with the subtle sweetness of the figs with a long-lasting honeymoon between them.

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Our wine now shifted to a local red that unfortunately escapes my memory despite it being an excellent match.

A salad with a local mushroom and a thinly sliced perfectly crisped pig trotter was next. I now understand why people enjoy trotters. This was a revelation and far superior to any I’ve had before.

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The scene now shifted to seafood. We had a salted cod dish served with rice that was risotto like. Interestingly, this was our friend’s favorite dish and my least favorite of the meal, though I still enjoyed it. I wonder if it is because I am not from a bacala culture in the U.S. The fish itself was expertly reconstituted, thick and firm and lacking an overt fishiness. I generally prefer fresh cod, though.

Lobo del Mar, another fish followed. This one was also thick and firm, but being fresh was flakier and more to my taste. It was served with mushrooms and two sauces. One was a leek sauce and the other mushroom.

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Since we came from America and according to Chef Aligue, Americans are meat-eaters, he then served us distal leg of veal cooked sous vide and served with a port-wine sauce that tasted like it had maple undertones, though it had no maple in it. Magnificent and next to the fois my favorite dish in a superb meal.

gallery_8158_199_1097272725.jpgVeal leg cooked Sous Vide as presented to the table.

gallery_8158_199_1097272824.jpgFinal presentation portion of veal leg served with a port-wine sauce.

gallery_8158_199_1097272990.jpgThe veal was served with spoonfuls of the marrow that was the best preparation of its kind I have ever had and the first I ever really enjoyed.

What is a great meal without dessert? We wouldn’t find out her, because the desserts came one after another. The first was a berry filled cannelono with a fruit sauce.

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gallery_8158_199_1097273158.jpgThen we had a mascarpone cream with some maple syrup. I never did find out from where he sourced his maple syrup since it didn’t taste exactly like maple syrup from northern New York. It was a fine dessert nevertheless.

To show some technique, he served a molten chocolate cake that he described as “different than Bras’” and then a molten hazelnut praline cake.gallery_8158_199_1097273253.jpg

Both were superb. The desserts were served with a dessert wine from Tarragona.gallery_8158_199_1097273368.jpg

Many of the above desserts were served with ice creams. These, while good, were the weakest part of the desserts and merely ordinary, lacking clearly defined flavors. I believe they were presented predominantly for contrast, textural, visual and temperature. As if these were not enough we had petit-fours consisting of cacao dark chocolate truffles, thin, nut wafer cookies and ice cream on a stick.

gallery_8158_199_1097273460.jpgChef Aligue with my wife and I.

We rolled out of the restaurant and back to our friends’ house, where we bade goodbye to Manresa before being driven back to Barcelona by our saintly friends.


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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April 28th, 2007.

We arrived in Barcelona early that morning. We were met at the airport by our friends who took us back to their home in Manresa for a brief rest before lunch (breakfast?) at Aligue located in the same town.

The food here is certainly not the reason this restaurant does not garner more acclaim than it does as the food really is quite excellent and on a par with many of the better restaurants in Catalunya. The room is ordinary as is the service. That and the fact that Manresa remains off the beaten track for most people who don't live there as well as the fact that Catalunya is chock full of outstanding restaurants are the most likely reasons. All I know is that if that food were served where I live, the restaurant would be the best restaurant in the area and I do not live in a deprived area for food.

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The sign.

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The bread.

We had the Chef's degustation menu.

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The amuse. This was foie mousse with artichoke cream and ground corn nuts. This was a pleasant starter with the corn nuts providing textural contrast as well as adding smoke and bitter elements for flavor balance.

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Shrimp carpaccio using local shrimp. this dish reminded me of one I had a few years ago at Can Fabes not too far away in Sant Celoni. This was very good.

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Fresh cod cooked sous vide with garlic soup. The texture of the cod was spot on perfect. The flavors were subtle and delicious. This was a marvelous dish.

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vegetables with Esperdenyes (sea cucumber) and Causalada (pork neck). A version of a traditional Catalan Mar y Montaña (surf and turf), this dish was very well prepared. The pigskin was crisp and delicious and the esperdenyes a real treat. The vegetables held their own as well.

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Foie Stuffed Fresh Morels in a Cream Sauce - pure decadence - perhaps the finest morels that I have ever eaten.

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Loup de mer with Artichokes and sobresada. The fish was cooked perfectly as was the skin - delicious. The sauce added just the right amount of flavor without overwhelming the fish.

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Chef Aligue displaying what will be the next course.

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Suckling Pig Shoulder. What is not to love?

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Red fruit with yogurt ice cream. This was good, but not special.

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Coffe and hazelnut ice creams with a coffee sauce. I think this helped me stay awake tthrough dinner :raz: This was refreshing and delicious with crunchy bits thrown in for texture.

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Hazelnut coulant. Similar to what I had here before, it was still delicious.

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A view of Montserrat from near the restaurant.

The location, the room and the service may not be "sexy", but the food is quite alluring. Given all the great food in the area, it is difficult to recommend this to the traveler with limited time or ability to get around. However, for this with more time or who are venturing towards Montserrat or Andorra, the food won't disappoint.


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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