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malacitana

Cinc sentits, Sant Pau, and Commerc 24

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Last week we spend a couple of days in Barcelona and managed to try out a couple of the restaurants that have received some attention in the forum. So I thought it might be interesting to share my impressions.

On the first evening, we had reservations at 9:00 p.m. at Cinc Sentits, knowing that this is a tad early for Spain, but in this case it didn't matter at all: Everyone in the restaurant, except me and my wife, were American. Not that I mind, but overall feeling was more NYC than Barcelona. We had the "Omakase" menu with two appetizers, four savoury dishes, a cheese course and two desserts.

The first appetizer was the maple-syrup, cream, cava sabayon, rock salt combination that I had already read about in some of the postings. The second appetizer was less spectacular and I cannot, for some reason, remember.

The first dish was cigala (langoustine) with chanterelle mushrooms served on tapioca, and an intense, dark shellfish reduction. The cigala was of pristine quality (the spanish fishermen apparently were on strike during that week). The shellfish reduction was reminiscent of a concentrated bouillabaisse and combined very well with the mushrooms and tapioca. This summer, I was served a very similar concentrated (shell-)fish soup at L'Alezna in Oviedo, Asturias. Similar in style was also a very concentrated sauce made of tuna-bones that accompanied a cylinder of bonito served at Casa Marcial, Arriondas, Asturias.

Then followed a piece of sauteed monkfish, served with a black olive compote and lemon caramel, and on top of a few tips of sauteed or grilled green asparagus. I think that monkfish with black olive compote and lemon caramel, or with green asparagus and lemon caramel, could strike a harmonious chord with the lemon caramel balancing the bitter notes of either the olives or the asparagus. In this case, however, the amount of lemon caramel was too little to achieve any balancing effect, and the bitterness of the asparagus overpowered the barely traceable olive compote. The fish itself was above any doubts.

The next dish was, as far as I can remember, a cube of crispy papada, i.e. pork jowl, served on a risotto with pistachios, and topped with an airy foam of rosemary. An accomplished dish showcasing iberico-quality pork with an interesting spectrum of textures.

The last savoury dish was cep-dusted lamb chops served alongside a puree of caramlized leeks and concentrated lamb stock. The cep-dust imparted a nice, earthy flavour to the well-flavoured, but slightly tough chops.

Then followed a cheese course with three different cheeses. To me, the most interesting combination was a blue cheese similar to, but creamier than Cabrales, with dates.

The idea of first dessert was based on a couple of well-known strawberry flavour combinations (strawberry and rose, and strawberry and peppercorns, strawberry and cream) a delicious Tahiti-vanilla panna cotta with a jelly coating of rose water and pink peppercorns, topped with a strawberry-balsamico vinegar sherbet. I suppose most restaurants in Spain prepare their sherbets to order with a Paco-jet which always achieves sherbets of a perfect texture and temperature. The strawberry taste was quite intense, reminding me of ripe wild strawberries.

The second dessert was a three layered cake: chocolate, tia-maria cream, and hazelnut parfait topped with a granizado of coffee.

The next day, at lunchtime, we took the regional train to Sant Pol de Mar which is the location of Carme Ruscalleda's restaurant Sant Pau.

The menu at Sant Pau starts with a micro-menu of three savoury and one sweet appetizers. The three savoury appetizers are mini-versions of traditional Spanish dishes from different regions, whereas the mini-dessert is a creation of Carme. The October micro-menu consisted of a very airy scrambled egg with tiny crisp strips of bacon (duelos y quebrantos from Ciudad Real), a bean and ham stew (andrajos from Albacete), a mixture of bacalao, potato and garlic (atascaburras from Cuenca), and a little ball of marzipan, red wine and manchego cheese, making an interesting start. The appetizers, the petit four and the cheese course are all served with a small leaflet featuring the names and hand-drawn renderings of each dish.

The first dish was an aspic of lobster, different types of mushrooms, a pistachio nut pudding, and a quenelle of ice-cream made from sauce ravigote. This was an incredibly accomplished and satisfying dish. Every element of the aspic had an incredibly intense taste, and the super smooth ice-cream, which was more subdued and slightly more acidic than a regular sauce ravigote, managed to bring together all the ingredients and elevate the dish to perfection.

The next dish was a bacalao showcase with cube of bacalao, brandade and bacalao guts, served in a soup of garlic and integral bread, and accompanied by a crisp wafer of black pudding. This was as refined as the first dish, but as refined as one can get with a bacalao dish, I guess. Interestingly, this was the third time this year I had bacalao guts in Spain, previously also in Casa Marcial in Arriondas, Asturias, and in Mugaritz, San Sebastian. It has a somewhat similar taste to the meat, but an entirely different texture (almost like agar-agar jelly).

The following dish was sauteed squid, stuffed with ceps and meat, and served with three different pepper purees. This was the weakest dish, in my opinion. The squid wings were crispy, which adds a nice touch, but the tube itself was slightly too tough. I would guess that by trying to achieve crispy wings, the squid is subjected to heat for slightly too long. Still a nice dish, though.

Then came another small masterpiece. Sea bass cooked in fig leaves and sprinkled with pink salt, accompanied by a sauce based on a fig chutney, half a marinated fig, and strips of sauteed and spiced apples. It's amazing how cooking in fig leaves can impart such an intense scent of figs and estragon. The sweet-sour combination of the other ingredients worked extremely well with the fig-scented bass.

As meat dish, I chose four different textures of beef, served with a cocoa-scented reduced beef stock, cubes of aubergine, deep-fried basil, and deep fried green pepper (pimiento de padron, I would guess).

The cheese course was also very accomplished, For me two of the five combinations stood out particularly, namely the tete de moine with a wobbly beer foam and bread crisps, and the taleggio with dried vineyard peaches and Chianti.

The real highlight of the whole menu, however, were the desserts.

The first dessert was based on pineapple and coconut. A slice of pineapple was topped by an outstanding disk of pineapple jelly, topped by a moist, quite dense pineapple-coconut sponge cake, all of which was served on top of a few drops of aceto balsamico, and with a "sauce" of excellent, fruity arbequina olive oil. In the same bowl, the dessert was accompanied by a quenelle of coconut ice-cream and a white, crisp, mint wafer. The dessert was finished with a small shot of pineapple coconut milkshake. An outstanding dessert which was very refreshing, and still rich enough to be very satisfying.

The second dessert included, what appeared to be a generously sized chocolate bonbon decorated with gold foil, but which was indeed a perfect, small and warm chocolate fondant, with a liquid but yet very creamy centre. This was served with two sauces, a vanilla sauce and a milk-chocolate sauce, a small sponge cake with a quenelle of white chocolate mousse. The white chocolate mousse was smoked and had the texture of english clotted cream. Carme later explained that she finds white chocolate overly sweet and had looked for a way of balancing this sweetness, and has therefore decided to smoke the chocolate cream in a smoker. In my opinion, this has worked excellently. Freshness unusual in chocolate desserts was imparted by gold-foil decorated gin-tonic jelly. A fantastic dessert.

I must say, to me, the desserts served in the top Spanish restaurants always seem much more inventive and accomplished than the desserts in comparable restaurants in, say, France, Italy, Germany or the U.K. Anyone agreeing with this observation?

The menu was finished with seven excellent petit fours, one of which was a chocolate bonbon filled with white chocolate and Perrins. I guess Perrins means Worcester sauce, i.e. another way for offsetting overly sweet white chocolate.

On our last evening we went to Commerc 24 which was a desaster. We ordered the 68 Euro festival de tapas consisting of a set of small appetizers, and 10 tapas served in three waves, a cheese course, and two desserts. The appetizers included Seville olives, potato crisps served with a vinegar foam, puffed rice with curry, pulverized popcorn, a toasted ham and cheese sandwich, and three sardine tins filled with different types of stews.

The olives were meatier but otherwise identical in taste to regular canned green olives. Dipping the potato crisps into the vinegar foam resulted in such a thin coating that the result was identical to salt-and-vinegar crisps widely available in the U.K.. The puffed rice was o.k., the pulverized popcorn glued my gums together, and the stews were comparable in quality to what you get in the numerous spanish ventas along the motorways. The ham and cheese sandwich was made with jamon iberico, buffalo mozarella and bits of black truffle and was quite nice. Overall, however, a very dissapointing start.

The first tapa was a tuna tartare served in a bowl with an egg-yolk mustard mixture. Not spectacular, but o.k. The second tapa was bacalao that had to be drawn over the plate from right to left in order to immerse with several sauces and condiments. I can't remember, however, what these were, since the overall impression was a strong fishy taste, not as in desalted bacalao, rather more as in not very fresh fish. We didn't finish this dish and called the waiter, who took the dish away and apparently reported to a head waiter. The head waiter came to our table and we were lectured that he (the waiter) tasted the bacalao, that the dish is precisely as intended by the kitchen, and that we would not be aware of the difference between fresh cod and bacalao. Quite arrogant, I must say. The third tapa was coca with herring and olives, which was a hearty, nice tapa in a very conventional style.

The second round of tapas started with a "kinder-huevo", an eggshell filled with mashed potato, scrambled egg and black truffle. Quite o.k., but of course not comparable to Thomas Keller's truffled egg custard. Then came snails pinched on a small skewer and wrapped with jamon iberico. The jamon, apparently, had been heated and consequently acquired a bacon-like texture. A shame, in my opinion, to do this to jamon iberico.

The next tapa was supposed to be a foie-gras cream served in a smallish bowl and covered by lentils. My wife's was o.k., but mine tasted as if the foie-gras cream was substituted by pure salt. I wasn't able to taste anything but salt during the next hour. The head waiter took the dish away, came back and apologized for this fatal mishap. We were, however, by now, in no mood to continue with the dinner and asked to pay for what we had and leave. The head waiter informed us immediately that we wouldn't have to pay at all. Disappointed to the bone we left.

Luckily, we were able to walk-in and finish our evening in close-by Espai Sucre with a wonderful three course dessert menu.

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I too dined at Cinc Sentits last week, just missing the fisherman's strike on the first occasion.Omakase on the first night, the one difference being the slow cooked veal cheek instead of the lamb.A really superb dish to be eaten with a spoon .It reminded me perfectly of the beef of my childhood.The second amuse was the foie gras torchon with violet jam, a classic and then a new addition with a sweet potato veloute with some brown butter which really set it off.

Two nights later we were back for the a la carte dishes missed on the first night. Amongst the highlights have to be the foie gras coca which was right up there with Mr. Blumenthal's crab biscuit and foie. The suckling pig and the duck were terrific, I had a half portion of cheese and fineshed with a trio of chocolates which demonstrated the differences between the cocoa beans superbly. Both wondeful, faultless evenings and Jordi's cooking seems to be going from strength to strength. The vote around the table was unanimous in preferring Cinc Sentits to Can Roca, not solely on the food but also the ambience, Jordi, Amelia's service and great wine pairing skill.I didn't notice any americains but there was a table of canadians and us Brits.

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Malacitana, thank you for such an interesting and informative post. Sant Pau sounds like a wonderful experience. Can you recollect approximately the price of the menu there?

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Malacitana, thank you for such an interesting and informative post.  Sant Pau sounds like a wonderful experience.  Can you recollect approximately the price of the menu there?

The menu was 99 Euros per head. We also asked for a wine pairing and we

were charged around 4 Euros per glass. A bottle of water was 1.50.

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I too dined at Cinc Sentits last week, just missing the fisherman's strike on the first occasion.Omakase on the first night, the one difference being the slow cooked veal cheek instead of the lamb.A really superb dish to be eaten with a spoon .It reminded me perfectly of the beef of my childhood.The second amuse was the foie gras torchon with violet jam, a classic and then a new addition with a sweet potato veloute with some brown butter which really set it off.

Two nights later we were back for the a la carte dishes missed on the first night. Amongst the highlights have to be the foie gras coca which was right up there with Mr. Blumenthal's crab biscuit and foie. The suckling pig  and the duck were terrific, I had a half portion of cheese and fineshed with a trio of chocolates which demonstrated the differences between the cocoa beans superbly. Both wondeful, faultless evenings  and Jordi's cooking seems to be going from strength to strength. The vote around the table was unanimous in preferring Cinc Sentits to Can Roca, not solely on the food but also the ambience, Jordi, Amelia's service and great wine pairing skill.I didn't notice any americains but there was a table of canadians and us Brits.

Yes, we also had the sweet potato veloute as an amuse. But there were only two, and definitely no foie gras. Do you recall your lamb chops? The meat was good, but could have been slightly more tender.

I have never been to Can Roca, so I cannot compare. In terms of food, I personally preferred Sant Pau to Cinc Sentits (but also as compared to Arzak and Berasategui. El Bulli cannot really be compared). The service at Sant Pau was flawless, but one of the most formal I have encountered in Spain, and I personally prefer the more casual style at Cinc Sentits. The ambience of the two restaurants is also very different with Cinc Sentits much more modern and minimalist. I would recommend Sant Pau for lunch if one has one of the tables which oversee the garden up to the sea.

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My wife had the lamb and loved it although from where I was sitting it was less pink than I had imagined. It didn't stop her picking up the bones and gnawing them which is always the sign of a decent piece of meat.

What I enjoy about 5 Sentits is the comfort- food aspect. The maple syrup shot sets the tone and none of the courses or dishes set out to shock which is the perfect thing for an autumn evening. I loved the intellectual ideas in the food at Can Roca, admire the technical skill at Can Fabes and am always blown away and shocked by Bulli but Jordi does comfort food of the highest degree which always does what it says on the tin, no false beignets of octopus testicles with butifarra ice cream( the Spanish equivalent of liver and lager?) and the prices of the food and wines seem outrageously low for those of us in rip-off Britain.

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I ate at Cinc Sentits a couple of weeks ago and it was almost flawless. Our omakase included the cheeks instead of the lamb and were my fiancee's favourite dish. Jordi told me that as well as the seasonal rotation of the menu he is also slowly introducing new dishes.

The wine pairings were excellent, Amelia's service impeccable. There were one or two really minor things that I felt didn't really work as well as others (the lemon/asparagus/monkfish being one of them) and the bread was average at best but the value for money was beyond compare. It seems churlish to pick faults when the meal overall was of such a high standard but I suppose that's part of the dining experience. I'm lucky enough to live here so I'm certainly going to be returning in a few weeks to see what changes Jordi makes and to try his winter menu.

By the way, if you enjoy the cheese course, try to visit La Seu Formatgeria who supply Cinc Sentits. Do an eGullet search for the details and you'll be rewarded with a great food shopping experience.

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Before I address nimzo's comments comparing Can Roca and Cinc Sentits, I'd like to welcome malacitana to eGullet and this forum. Nice opening thread, covering a restaurant, Sant Pau, which doesn't get the attention that probably deserves.

If we isolate ambience, something I can't judge since the only time I visited Cinc Sentits was on a working day for lunch and the place was nearly empty, I'd say that Can Roca is several steps above Cinc Sentits in terms of the food and the wine list / pairings. I'm tempted to say that also in service, but again I don't consider the service I got that day relevant, not because it was bad, which it wasn't, but because of the low number of guests in the dining room.

Does that mean that Cinc Sentits is a bad restaurant? Of course not, but right now I can't think of any restaurant in Spain I've visited in the last year that could offer a better experience than Can Roca. To me, at least.

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Does that mean that Cinc Sentits is a bad restaurant? Of course not, but right now I can't think of any restaurant in Spain I've visited in the last year that could offer a better experience than Can Roca. To me, at least.

I second Pedro's comments. I enjoy CS a lot, and I agree that is quite possibly one of the best value restaurants in BCN.

However Can Roca is on a different league altogether (and also an incredible value).

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A wonderful report, malacitana.

If you get a chance, could you tell us about your Espai Sucre experience?

Thanks in advance!

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Surely even Jordi would not be offended by the idea that Can Roca is a more accomplished restaurant than Cinc Sentits. Amèlia, however, may be unmatched as a hostess. Although their wine list is also not as deep as that at Can Roca, it is far more than serviceable and the advice is good. I'm not surprised that it's popular with Americans. I think it's popularity here would ensure that and Jordi and Amèlia's fluncy with English gained living and working in the U.S. also helps. I'd be surprised if it didn't catch on, or even if it hasn't caught on with locals. At any rate, I feel a sense of friendshhip with Jordi and Amèlia which unfortunately for them and for those reading here, that rather works against my praising them too highly lest I be seen as less than impartial. What can I say? I think most visitors will feel the same way after one visit.

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I wasn't suggesting for a minute that Jordi is as accomplished a chef as the Roca's, simply that we all enjoyed our meals at 5C more. I have been up all night wondering why there are those restaurants with technically excellent food and lots of stars which i enjoy in my mind and mouth and others which just go straight to the heart. Jordi's is certainly one of the latter for me.

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covering a restaurant, Sant Pau, which doesn't get the attention that probably deserves.

This could possibly be a good thing. Sometimes the best kept secrets are just that. Secret. :wink:

I had a wonderful meal her in Dec. A glorious sunny crisp day, a beautiful trip along the coast on the train and the presentation of some of the prettiest food I have ever seen.

Additionally the majority of this food was also delicious and the preparation meticulous. As mentioned above, the degustation is 99 Euros, a real bargain for this level of food. We drank a Catalan wine recommended by the Sommelier - I will have to check my notes at home.

The cheese course was a fun nice touch, but I'm still not convinced on the pairing of the Irish cheese with a Baileys Cake.

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On our last evening we went to Commerc 24 which was a desaster.

The meal i had at Commerc24 this past Sep, was some of the most flavorful

and well prepared food i had through out my Spain/France trip

out of the 24 plates only one had a component that did not work for me

in comparison out of the 36 items i had at el Bulli only 6-7 worked

Cinc Sentits was good,nothing wrong with the meal

just not as exiting for me


Edited by xyz123 (log)

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I spent a long time going through the postings, before my trip to Barcelona last week. Work kept me from trying out many of the suggestions, but I made sure my wife and I had a chance to try Cinc Sentits, based on the many reviews here, and a semi-affordable price. I grew up in a Chinese restaurant, in Idaho, of all places, and have not really had much of an opportunity to sample much "fine cuisine," so we were very excited to give it a try...

Here is a list of the Omasake menu that we were served on February 10th.

Shot of maple syrup

foie gras terrine, violet marmolade, and crushed carquinyolis

Jerusalem artichoke veloute

Cigala tale wild mushrooms, tapioca rement, shellfish essence

Monkfish black olive compote, lemon caramel, asparagus tips

Iberian Pork Belly

Veal Cheek

Artisan Spanish Cheeses

Tangerine borraxto

Toasted turron parfait

We loved it all, except for the pork belly. I had plenty of chances to eat pork belly in Taiwan, but the taste has still not grown on me. I loved the maple syrup shot at the beginning, great way to start things off. The favorite dish for both my wife and I was the Monkfish, the fish was cooked perfectly...The veal cheek was also amazing, they made a big deal about serving it with a spoon because it was so tender.

Thanks to all for all your reviews, we had a wonderful time. I look forward to a life time of eating adventures.

thanks

Tim Hong

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I spent a long time going through the postings, before my trip to Barcelona last week.  Work kept me from trying out many of the suggestions, but I made sure my wife and I had a chance to try Cinc Sentits, based on the many reviews here, and a semi-affordable price.  I grew up in a Chinese restaurant, in Idaho, of all places, and have not really had much of an opportunity to sample much "fine cuisine," so we were very excited to give it a try...

Here is a list of the Omasake menu that we were served on February 10th.

Shot of maple syrup

foie gras terrine, violet marmolade, and crushed carquinyolis

Jerusalem artichoke veloute

Cigala tale wild mushrooms, tapioca rement, shellfish essence

Monkfish black olive compote, lemon caramel, asparagus tips

Iberian Pork Belly

Veal Cheek

Artisan Spanish Cheeses

Tangerine borraxto

Toasted turron parfait

We loved it all, except for the pork belly.  I had plenty of chances to eat pork belly in Taiwan, but the taste has still not grown on me.  I loved the maple syrup shot at the beginning, great way to start things off.  The favorite dish for both my wife and I was the Monkfish, the fish was cooked perfectly...The veal cheek was also amazing, they made a big deal about serving it with a spoon because it was so tender.

Thanks to all for all your reviews, we had a wonderful time.  I look forward to a life time of eating adventures.

thanks

Tim Hong

Thanks for the report, Tim, and welcome to eGullet! What else did you eat in and around Barcelona?

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Welcome to the Society Tim. CS is a wonderful place and your meal reminds me of ours almost ayear ago. We also started with the maple flavored shot, had the amazing foie terrine and the the pork belly. I enjoyed the flavorful pork belly very much though.

So, where else did you eat in Barcelona?

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I was just going through my papers trying to find my passport as I'm off on holiday on wednesday and I came upon the copy of the Omakase menu I had at Cinc Sentits when I was in Barcelona a few weeks ago. I'd asked for the menu especially so I could remember what I'd eaten in order to write it up here and now I'm looking at it wishing I'd posted when it was fresher in my mind! However, the reason we'd chosen Cinc Sentits was because of the reviews I read here so I'd better do my bit and add my two cents worth.

Before delving in to the minutae of what we ate the first thing I have to say about the place is what good value it is, especially for the wine. I cant tell you how pleasing it is to see tasting menu whose matching wine is so well priced. I'd recently been to the Fat Duck where the matching wine cost more than my entire meal at Cinc Sentits.

Anyway, enough of the small talk. We started with the shot of warm maple syrup, cream, cava sabayon and rock salt. This was an exceptional start to the meal. The way salt accentuates and complements caramel flavours rocks my world, and the shot did not dissapoint. It was followed by a small spoonful of fois gras, violet marmalade and crushed carquinyolis. Looking at it in print it reads as an odd combination, and frankly it was. The foi gras wasn't really allowed to come through as the lavender overpowered it too much. Next up, and the final amuse bouch was a sweet potato espuma with walnut oil. This was a perfectly accomplished soup, and enjoyable, but nothing to blow your socks off.

The next course to alight at our table was a Galician Scallop, the first of the main courses. The scallop was sweet and well cooked, but due to the time that has elapsed since the meal I can't remember anything other than that. This was followed by Wild Red Mullet sitting on a bed of ebly 'black risotto' with parsley oil. This certainly looked striking. The contrasts of the black, red and green making it one of the best looking dishes I've had in some time. However, the squid ink in the risotto slightly overpowered the fish (which, on its own, was beautiful) and the parsley oil added less to the flavour of the dish than to its appearance. However, any slight quibles with the previous course were immediately relegated on the appearance of the next course. The Iberian Pork Belly with braised lentils and squid was out of this world. Now obviously pork belly deserves slow cooking and this peice of meat had certainly received it. It had been hermetically sealed and then cooked for 17 hours before being finished in a hot pan to caramalise the outside. I adore pork belly, but my girlfriend is rather less enamoured of it. However, she absolutely adored it this time. It was also accompanied by a very nice Senorio de Valdehernoso Roble 2004. Having hit the heights with the pork belly I couldn't wait for the next course, a slow braised Oxtail. I love the big unctuous flavours of oxtail and this was a superb example of how to get the best out of this underutilised cut. I'm sure it helped that the Closa Batllet 2002 that came with it complimented it so well.

Unfortunately the desserts didn't quite compare to the meat courses, however the sweet wines matched with them almost made up for it. The cheese selection was dissapointing its size and timing (I prefer cheese after dessert, but thats just personal) but I couldn't fault the cheeses. The lemon selection was nice, but no more. However, the 'Xixona Turron' parfait was sublime. Even more so was the NOE Pedro Ximenez sherry that came with it. It slipped out of the bottle like treacle and was just out of this world.

All in all it was a successul night. The only minor glitches on the night were the fact that the table next to us were served their mullet with the squid ink ebly at the same time as our lemon dessert which made my girlfriend wonder why her curd tasted of fish! I also found the room to be a little bare, but thats hardly the end of the world.

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. . .  (I prefer cheese after dessert, but thats just personal) . . . .

Only in the UK does that appear to be a choice. As an American whose food tastes and dining habits were formed largely in France and French dining rooms, I was flabbergasted to see a table of women, who I judged to be educated diners, order cheese after dessert at a rather upscale Italian restaurant in London. I mistakenly assumed they had too much to drink or were under the influence of drugs to start eating a savory course again after dessert. Later, I learned it was common practice in the UK. I must honestly say, I've never come across it in France, where the cheese course is well established and an integral part of even informal meals at home. A cheese course as such, is far less common in Spain or Italy. In Spain, I've had the sense that cheese has traditionally been more of a snack food or tapa, than a course in a formal meal. This is probably changing and I think it's due to the French influence. While Spain may currently be more influential than France in the culinary world, contemporary Spain is anything but provincial and seems very receptive to outside ideas. Perhaps locals will disagree with me and cite references to long term inclusion of a cheese course in Spanish meals.

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You're perfectly right, Bux. In Spain, where until 10-15 years ago all cheeses of any consequence were hard cheeses, the habit has been to include wedges of cheese (manchego, but also idiazabal, roncal and the like) with slices of ham, olives and potato chips as basic pre-meal tapas. The growth of soft cheeses such as torta del Casar or Tou dels Til.lers, combined with the French influence, has accelerated the move to a cheese course at the end of the meal.

Indeed only in the UK do they eat cheese after dessert - but not only plain cheese, also such hot savoury dishes as Welsh rarebit! The French saying, 'entre la poire et le fromage', has led some to believe that the French used to do the same, since it appears to signal that a pear came first, then cheese. Current thinking goes that, in reality, back in the 14th century it wasn't a full dessert course that came before cheese, but just, specifically, an apple or a pear. The purpose would have been just to clear the palate, and if that's so, it would appear to me that this was a thoroughly modern use of fresh fruit!

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I thought I'd add a photo report of our lunch at Cinc Sentits on May 2, 2006, which we really enjoyed. Actually, we enjoyed it a lot more than our meal a few days earlier at The Fat Duck, but I suppose that's a different topic. Amelia was a wonderful hostess, very easy to talk to, and recommended some excellent wines.

Shot of warm maple syrup, cream, cava sabayon and rock salt. An excellent combination of flavors. I'd love to have this again.

gallery_10136_2514_254631.jpg

Foie gras terrine, passion fruit marmalade and crushed carquinyolis. I almost always enjoy foie gras at higher-end restaurants and this was no exception. My companion's foie gras was a little strong, however.

gallery_10136_2514_577248.jpg

Salt cod espuma, romesco dust, potato with fumet reduction. All I can say is that this was tasty; I couldn't really differentiate any of the flavors (which was too bad), but it came together well.

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Galician diver scallop, sunchoke puree, sweet onion escalivada. Wine pairing: pazo pineiro albarino (d.o. rias baixas, spain).

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Wild mediterranean red mullet, false black risotto and parsley oil. The only somewhat disappointing dish. I'm not a fan of any sort of risotto concotion and I don't tend to care for squid ink, so I'm partially to "blame", I suppose. Parsley oil was completely lost. Paired with marcel deiss riesling (alsace, france).

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Iberian pork belly with braised lentils, calamares a la plancha. A very tasty pork dish, but probably could have a used a bit more salt. However, it couldn't hold a candle to the next dish. Paired with senorio de valdehermoso roble 2004 (d.o. ribera del duero, spain).

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Iberian suckling pig, apple in two textures, priorat and honey glaze. We asked to substitute this into the tasting menu and I am so glad we did. One of the more amazing dishes I had on our trip. The pork was crispy and succulent and paired perfectly with the apples. Served with closa batllet 2002 (d.o.q. priorat, spain).

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Artisan spanish cheeses: arzua-ulloa with walnut crisp, sierra de cazorla with tomato marmalade and valdeon with medjool date. The cheeses were all good, but, even better, was what they were paired with. The tomato marmalade and medjool date really complemented the flavors of the cheeses well. Served with barbara fores dolc 2003 (d.o. terra alta, spain).

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Lemon cake, curd, espuma and cream with vodka granizado. The lemon cake was fairly simple, but the other elements and textures really stood out. The vodka went well with the overall lemon flavor. Paired with grey goose vodka.

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Xixona turron parfait, espresso granissat, vanilla bean cream and chocolate cake. I fell in love with turron during our stay in Barcelona, so it was interesting to see a dessert incorporating it. I usually like my desserts a bit sweeter, but this was a very nice finish. Paired with NOE pedro ximenez (d.o. jerez-xeres-sherry, spain).

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Another welcome report, mukki! It is nice to see Jordi's evolution. The food looks better than ever. I agree, Amelia is a fabulous hostess. She is genuinely warm and has a knack for making one feel comfortable.

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