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Mugaritz and Arzak


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I would be interested to hear other peoples opinions regarding Mugaritz and Arzak ( i know it has been discussed previously on this forum - however I would value some more recent observations)

I ate at both this past weekend. I found Arzak astoundingly great - it had such an air of confidence about it and even though it was experimental it never sacrificed taste and flavour. We had the multi-course tasting menu and each dish was as good as the last.

I have not completely made my mind up about Mugaritz - it was certainly a more cerebral experience but not necessarily an enjoyable one. I feel it is important that chefs try and break down traditional boundaries, however certain dishes were just plain inedible and I am somebody who can eat almost anything.

I found the whole experience challenging and confrontational and don't regret going, however I don't think I would return.

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thanks, I am relatively new to this site so just working out how to navigate my way around it!

Wellcome to eGullet. Here's a thread about the restaurants that you mention and a few others.

Rogelio Enríquez aka "Rogelio"
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i have been to arzak's twice and to mugaritz's once

in my humble and totally unbiased opinion, nothing can stand in the way of the universal magnificence of arzak

it is not only the food

it is what arzak has said in total honesty: if i do not cook well, all the local clients will punish me and they are too close to me!

jokes apart, the atmosphere in arzak's is also fantastic! ordinary people, enjoying the food and the overall experience

if you add the impecable but not stuffy service you get the whole picture!

i am not so sure about mugaritz

i had a six-course menu and i only really liked the rack of lamb!

the deserts however where fantastic!

and the somelier very helpful!

the overall experience was unbalanced and lacking in excitement

athinaeos

civilization is an everyday affair

the situation is hopeless, but not very serious

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I would be interested to hear other peoples opinions regarding Mugaritz and Arzak ( i know it has been discussed previously on this forum - however I would value some more recent observations)

I ate at both this past weekend.  I found Arzak astoundingly great - it had such an air of confidence about it and even though it was experimental it never sacrificed taste and flavour.  We had the multi-course tasting menu and each dish was as good as the last. 

I have not completely made my mind up about Mugaritz - it was certainly a more cerebral experience but not necessarily an enjoyable one.  I feel it is important that chefs try and break down traditional boundaries, however certain dishes were just plain inedible and I am somebody who can eat almost anything.

I found the whole experience challenging and confrontational and don't regret going, however I don't think I would return.

It would be enormously helpful to report just what dishes you found inedible at Mugaritz? How did you learn of Mugaritz? What do you know of his culinary efforts? Tell us of your experience in sampling various Spanish chefs? Did you order the tasting menu at Mugaritz?

I would like a better understanding of what dishes were exciting to you at Arzak? A careful reading of your experience at both Arzak and Mugaritiz would be helpful.

I am an unabashed supporter of Mugaritz. I have only had ONE disappointing dish at Mugaritz after 5 years of dining at this remarkable establishment.

Were you informed about his "vegetable coal" dish? I would like to understand your ambivalent response. I am also a veteran supporter of Arzak. I personally think the future of modern Basque cooking is in the hands of Andoni Aduriz. There are other chefs and critics that are even more eloquent about his talents than myself. Ferran Adria's brother, Alberto has hailed Chef Aduriz as the most outstanding (cannot recall his actual comments) innovative chef in Spain today. Your detailed comments would be appreciated.

I can understand having decided taste treats, preferences about preparations, and other individual proclivities. I have never heard anyone characterize a menu item or dish as inedible in any Basque fine dining restaurant.

Our most recent visit to Mugaritz was February 1, 2006. It was an extraordinary dining experience. Rut Cotroneo the new sommelier is the best we have encountered to date anywhere in Spain. Her contribution to Mugaritz is phenomenal and so welcome. She comes from the Fat Duck. Her English is excellent . The depth of her wine knowledge is thrilling. She only wanted to work at Mugaritz. The fit is perfect. Mugaritz is better than ever!!! Judith Gebhart

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Ferran Adria's brother, Alberto has hailed Chef Aduriz as the most outstanding (cannot recall his actual comments) innovative chef in Spain today.

The actual quote was: "for me, Andoni Luis Aduriz is the future of Spanish cooking."

Arley Sasson

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Ferran Adria's brother, Alberto has hailed Chef Aduriz as the most outstanding (cannot recall his actual comments) innovative chef in Spain today.

The actual quote was: "for me, Andoni Luis Aduriz is the future of Spanish cooking."

Thank you for the accurate quote which I couldn't recall. Most appreciative ASM, NY. Could you offer Alberto's complete quote and date it? Thanks so much. Judith Gebhart
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I would be interested to hear other peoples opinions regarding Mugaritz and Arzak ( i know it has been discussed previously on this forum - however I would value some more recent observations)

I ate at both this past weekend.  I found Arzak astoundingly great - it had such an air of confidence about it and even though it was experimental it never sacrificed taste and flavour.  We had the multi-course tasting menu and each dish was as good as the last. 

I have not completely made my mind up about Mugaritz - it was certainly a more cerebral experience but not necessarily an enjoyable one.  I feel it is important that chefs try and break down traditional boundaries, however certain dishes were just plain inedible and I am somebody who can eat almost anything.

I found the whole experience challenging and confrontational and don't regret going, however I don't think I would return.

It would be enormously helpful to report just what dishes you found inedible at Mugaritz? How did you learn of Mugaritz? What do you know of his culinary efforts? Tell us of your experience in sampling various Spanish chefs? Did you order the tasting menu at Mugaritz?

I would like a better understanding of what dishes were exciting to you at Arzak? A careful reading of your experience at both Arzak and Mugaritiz would be helpful.

I am an unabashed supporter of Mugaritz. I have only had ONE disappointing dish at Mugaritz after 5 years of dining at this remarkable establishment.

Were you informed about his "vegetable coal" dish? I would like to understand your ambivalent response. I am also a veteran supporter of Arzak. I personally think the future of modern Basque cooking is in the hands of Andoni Aduriz. There are other chefs and critics that are even more eloquent about his talents than myself. Ferran Adria's brother, Alberto has hailed Chef Aduriz as the most outstanding (cannot recall his actual comments) innovative chef in Spain today. Your detailed comments would be appreciated.

I can understand having decided taste treats, preferences about preparations, and other individual proclivities. I have never heard anyone characterize a menu item or dish as inedible in any Basque fine dining restaurant.

Our most recent visit to Mugaritz was February 1, 2006. It was an extraordinary dining experience. Rut Cotroneo the new sommelier is the best we have encountered to date anywhere in Spain. Her contribution to Mugaritz is phenomenal and so welcome. She comes from the Fat Duck. Her English is excellent . The depth of her wine knowledge is thrilling. She only wanted to work at Mugaritz. The fit is perfect. Mugaritz is better than ever!!! Judith Gebhart

Hi judith

We sampled the tasting menu comprising around 8 different courses. I had done a lot of research prior to the visit and had chosen Mugaritz as its chef seeemed to have an interesting philosophy towards cooking and food, similar to Michel Bras who I deeply admire. He also seems to take a scientific approach, exemplified by his stint at a liver research clinic , which I find intriguing. Not that any of that matters when assessing a meal on its merits.

My only other experience with Spanish haute cuisine came the night before, when I visited Arzak. It was one of the best meals I had ever had. Every single bite was sheer poetry and I can't say that one dish was better than another, although I particularly loved the foie gras wrapped in zuchinni. The service was exemplary and the ambience was relaxed due to the predominance of locals who were dining at the restaurant. There was nothing pretentious about this restaurant which is amazing considering the greatness of the food.

Whilst I enjoyed certain elements of Mugaritz I felt it was slightly contrived and did not flow. The dish that I found particularly inedible was the lambs trotters - I did manage to plough my way through it however my fellow diners put their cutlery down in unison and refused to eat more than a bite. Incidentally I don't feel that I am the first person to air such sentiments I have read other threads on this very forum regarding Mugaritz which closely mirror my own http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showto...635&hl=mugaritz. The fish and seafood courses whilst not inedible were distinctly bland - hake above a saffron infusion was disappointing, as was sea scallops with amarynth in a clay sauce. Novel touches such as silver gilting didnt work - the silver and gelatin just sticking to your fork.

It's interesting to note your thoughts on Ruth, we found her to be lovely also - she actually gave us a lift home. However we found her wine knowledge to be limited, she gave us a sweet wine she thought was dry and her knowledge outside of spanish wine seemed limited. She is young though.

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its chef seeemed to have an interesting philosophy towards cooking and food, similar to Michel Bras who I deeply admire. 

Very good observation. Some of us here in Spain actually believe that Michel Bras has been the most important chef in this country's culinary revolution... His influence has been so pervasive on everyone here, from Adrià to Aduriz to Berasategui, that this (unfairly underreported) fact should suffice to pour a ton of balm on the aching hearts of proponents and professionals of French cuisine!

Victor de la Serna

elmundovino

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Ferran Adria's brother, Alberto has hailed Chef Aduriz as the most outstanding (cannot recall his actual comments) innovative chef in Spain today.

The actual quote was: "for me, Andoni Luis Aduriz is the future of Spanish cooking."

Thank you for the accurate quote which I couldn't recall. Most appreciative ASM, NY. Could you offer Alberto's complete quote and date it? Thanks so much. Judith Gebhart

The place I read it was in the New York Times Magazine article: "The Nueva Nouvelle Cuisine, How Spain Became the New France" by Arthur Lubow, dated August 10, 2003.

It reads:

A year ago, Ferran Adria's younger brother, Albert, told me: "For me, Andoni Luis Aduriz is the future of Spanish cooking." So I cannot say I went to Aduriz's Mugaritz retaurant, in the countryside a half-hour from San Sebastian, with no expectations.

Arley Sasson

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Ferran Adria's brother, Alberto has hailed Chef Aduriz as the most outstanding (cannot recall his actual comments) innovative chef in Spain today.

The actual quote was: "for me, Andoni Luis Aduriz is the future of Spanish cooking."

Thank you for the accurate quote which I couldn't recall. Most appreciative ASM, NY. Could you offer Alberto's complete quote and date it? Thanks so much. Judith Gebhart

The place I read it was in the New York Times Magazine article: "The Nueva Nouvelle Cuisine, How Spain Became the New France" by Arthur Lubow, dated August 10, 2003.

It reads:

A year ago, Ferran Adria's younger brother, Albert, told me: "For me, Andoni Luis Aduriz is the future of Spanish cooking." So I cannot say I went to Aduriz's Mugaritz retaurant, in the countryside a half-hour from San Sebastian, with no expectations.

Thanks again for your help. I had forgotten that Lubow's article was the source of this quote. Too bad Lubow missed a visit to Aduriz's restaurant. Judith Gebhart
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I would be interested to hear other peoples opinions regarding Mugaritz and Arzak ( i know it has been discussed previously on this forum - however I would value some more recent observations)

I ate at both this past weekend.  I found Arzak astoundingly great - it had such an air of confidence about it and even though it was experimental it never sacrificed taste and flavour.  We had the multi-course tasting menu and each dish was as good as the last. 

I have not completely made my mind up about Mugaritz - it was certainly a more cerebral experience but not necessarily an enjoyable one.  I feel it is important that chefs try and break down traditional boundaries, however certain dishes were just plain inedible and I am somebody who can eat almost anything.

I found the whole experience challenging and confrontational and don't regret going, however I don't think I would return.

It would be enormously helpful to report just what dishes you found inedible at Mugaritz? How did you learn of Mugaritz? What do you know of his culinary efforts? Tell us of your experience in sampling various Spanish chefs? Did you order the tasting menu at Mugaritz?

I would like a better understanding of what dishes were exciting to you at Arzak? A careful reading of your experience at both Arzak and Mugaritiz would be helpful.

I am an unabashed supporter of Mugaritz. I have only had ONE disappointing dish at Mugaritz after 5 years of dining at this remarkable establishment.

Were you informed about his "vegetable coal" dish? I would like to understand your ambivalent response. I am also a veteran supporter of Arzak. I personally think the future of modern Basque cooking is in the hands of Andoni Aduriz. There are other chefs and critics that are even more eloquent about his talents than myself. Ferran Adria's brother, Alberto has hailed Chef Aduriz as the most outstanding (cannot recall his actual comments) innovative chef in Spain today. Your detailed comments would be appreciated.

I can understand having decided taste treats, preferences about preparations, and other individual proclivities. I have never heard anyone characterize a menu item or dish as inedible in any Basque fine dining restaurant.

Our most recent visit to Mugaritz was February 1, 2006. It was an extraordinary dining experience. Rut Cotroneo the new sommelier is the best we have encountered to date anywhere in Spain. Her contribution to Mugaritz is phenomenal and so welcome. She comes from the Fat Duck. Her English is excellent . The depth of her wine knowledge is thrilling. She only wanted to work at Mugaritz. The fit is perfect. Mugaritz is better than ever!!! Judith Gebhart

Hi judith

We sampled the tasting menu comprising around 8 different courses. I had done a lot of research prior to the visit and had chosen Mugaritz as its chef seeemed to have an interesting philosophy towards cooking and food, similar to Michel Bras who I deeply admire. He also seems to take a scientific approach, exemplified by his stint at a liver research clinic , which I find intriguing. Not that any of that matters when assessing a meal on its merits.

My only other experience with Spanish haute cuisine came the night before, when I visited Arzak. It was one of the best meals I had ever had. Every single bite was sheer poetry and I can't say that one dish was better than another, although I particularly loved the foie gras wrapped in zuchinni. The service was exemplary and the ambience was relaxed due to the predominance of locals who were dining at the restaurant. There was nothing pretentious about this restaurant which is amazing considering the greatness of the food.

Whilst I enjoyed certain elements of Mugaritz I felt it was slightly contrived and did not flow. The dish that I found particularly inedible was the lambs trotters - I did manage to plough my way through it however my fellow diners put their cutlery down in unison and refused to eat more than a bite. Incidentally I don't feel that I am the first person to air such sentiments I have read other threads on this very forum regarding Mugaritz which closely mirror my own http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showto...635&hl=mugaritz. The fish and seafood courses whilst not inedible were distinctly bland - hake above a saffron infusion was disappointing, as was sea scallops with amarynth in a clay sauce. Novel touches such as silver gilting didnt work - the silver and gelatin just sticking to your fork.

It's interesting to note your thoughts on Ruth, we found her to be lovely also - she actually gave us a lift home. However we found her wine knowledge to be limited, she gave us a sweet wine she thought was dry and her knowledge outside of spanish wine seemed limited. She is young though.

I must thank you for your response to my questions about Mugaritz and Arzak. I must add a bias about drinking only Spanish wines when dining in Spain. My enthusiam about Rut the sommelier at Mugaritz was her in depth knowledge of Spanish wines and specifically tiny vineyards with limited production. These were welcome additions to their celler and wine list. Sorry about your unhappy experience.

We do share your enthusiasm for Michel Bras which we have visited yearly since 1985; Sergio of Michel Bras urged us in the late 90's to visit Berasategui which we did. Elena of Arzak urged us to visit Mugaritz a year later. We have been ardent followers of the Spanish chefs since. Judith Gebhart

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I would be interested to hear other peoples opinions regarding Mugaritz and Arzak ( i know it has been discussed previously on this forum - however I would value some more recent observations)

I ate at both this past weekend.  I found Arzak astoundingly great - it had such an air of confidence about it and even though it was experimental it never sacrificed taste and flavour.  We had the multi-course tasting menu and each dish was as good as the last. 

I have not completely made my mind up about Mugaritz - it was certainly a more cerebral experience but not necessarily an enjoyable one.  I feel it is important that chefs try and break down traditional boundaries, however certain dishes were just plain inedible and I am somebody who can eat almost anything.

I found the whole experience challenging and confrontational and don't regret going, however I don't think I would return.

It would be enormously helpful to report just what dishes you found inedible at Mugaritz? How did you learn of Mugaritz? What do you know of his culinary efforts? Tell us of your experience in sampling various Spanish chefs? Did you order the tasting menu at Mugaritz?

I would like a better understanding of what dishes were exciting to you at Arzak? A careful reading of your experience at both Arzak and Mugaritiz would be helpful.

I am an unabashed supporter of Mugaritz. I have only had ONE disappointing dish at Mugaritz after 5 years of dining at this remarkable establishment.

Were you informed about his "vegetable coal" dish? I would like to understand your ambivalent response. I am also a veteran supporter of Arzak. I personally think the future of modern Basque cooking is in the hands of Andoni Aduriz. There are other chefs and critics that are even more eloquent about his talents than myself. Ferran Adria's brother, Alberto has hailed Chef Aduriz as the most outstanding (cannot recall his actual comments) innovative chef in Spain today. Your detailed comments would be appreciated.

I can understand having decided taste treats, preferences about preparations, and other individual proclivities. I have never heard anyone characterize a menu item or dish as inedible in any Basque fine dining restaurant.

Our most recent visit to Mugaritz was February 1, 2006. It was an extraordinary dining experience. Rut Cotroneo the new sommelier is the best we have encountered to date anywhere in Spain. Her contribution to Mugaritz is phenomenal and so welcome. She comes from the Fat Duck. Her English is excellent . The depth of her wine knowledge is thrilling. She only wanted to work at Mugaritz. The fit is perfect. Mugaritz is better than ever!!! Judith Gebhart

Hi judith

We sampled the tasting menu comprising around 8 different courses. I had done a lot of research prior to the visit and had chosen Mugaritz as its chef seeemed to have an interesting philosophy towards cooking and food, similar to Michel Bras who I deeply admire. He also seems to take a scientific approach, exemplified by his stint at a liver research clinic , which I find intriguing. Not that any of that matters when assessing a meal on its merits.

My only other experience with Spanish haute cuisine came the night before, when I visited Arzak. It was one of the best meals I had ever had. Every single bite was sheer poetry and I can't say that one dish was better than another, although I particularly loved the foie gras wrapped in zuchinni. The service was exemplary and the ambience was relaxed due to the predominance of locals who were dining at the restaurant. There was nothing pretentious about this restaurant which is amazing considering the greatness of the food.

Whilst I enjoyed certain elements of Mugaritz I felt it was slightly contrived and did not flow. The dish that I found particularly inedible was the lambs trotters - I did manage to plough my way through it however my fellow diners put their cutlery down in unison and refused to eat more than a bite. Incidentally I don't feel that I am the first person to air such sentiments I have read other threads on this very forum regarding Mugaritz which closely mirror my own http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showto...635&hl=mugaritz. The fish and seafood courses whilst not inedible were distinctly bland - hake above a saffron infusion was disappointing, as was sea scallops with amarynth in a clay sauce. Novel touches such as silver gilting didnt work - the silver and gelatin just sticking to your fork.

It's interesting to note your thoughts on Ruth, we found her to be lovely also - she actually gave us a lift home. However we found her wine knowledge to be limited, she gave us a sweet wine she thought was dry and her knowledge outside of spanish wine seemed limited. She is young though.

I always found Ruth to be excellent at the Duck and apart from a dry sherry I don't think I ever had any Spanish wines. In 18 months there I would imagine she served very few Spanish wines on what is a French dominated list.

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In anticipation of my 10-day gastronomic tour of northern Spain in early April, I found Gastrochick's review of both Arzak and Mugaritz very interesting and helpful. Thank you. Since Mugaritz is our last night in Spain. we will see how cerebral we want to go at that point on our trip.

Judith, I have a PDF of the NYT article if you want it. Let me know.

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Welcome to eGullet (from a relatively new poster, ha)! It is just my own impression, but comparing the Arzak of today bears no candle to the Arzak when Juan Mari was more firmly in control. He was the new Basque cooking, which was a marvelous balance between the classic and the modern/nouvelle cuisine. He was always learning, and I remember how he told me his experiments in subliminal seasoning, adding almost imperceptible amounts of aromas exotic--like pulverized ginger-- to classic Basque cuisine that could inobtrusively enhance the traditional profile of the dish. I'll never forget some of the dishes I had there.

Maybe because when we eat, we re-consume previous meals, I find my recent meals in Arzak not up to the old standard. Elena is talented and Juan Mari is a very proud papa to have such a successor to the family restaurant, but in my mind she is still feeling her way, along with the thousands of Ferranistas. She has not found her own cuisine. I say give her a few years' breathing space to come into her own without too much undue early scrutiny. In a way, her inheriting her father's kitchen is a big burden, since externally it seems like an unbroken continuity. I predict Arzak is like a phoenix, and right now we are in the molt stage. Elena has an impeccable culinary pedigree and talent, so all she needs is time and space.

All of these comparisons of Arzak and Mugaritz are in a sense unfair, although its understandable that it arises when travelers to Donostia are trying to decide where to budget their few meals. Even though I would call Arzak disappointing, it has an enduring classic appeal and is easy to like for first timers. Mugaritz is totally different. Andoni, like all geniuses, is not easy to understand because there are so few previous references. If you love the aesthetics of Michel Bras, admire the technical virtuosity of El Bulli but don't like eating ringside in a circus, you'll adore Mugaritz. It's not for everyone, thank goodness. If I were to characterize today's Restaurant Arzak, it's like seeing Joel Robuchon going through a midlife crisis. Andoni is still reaching for the peak of his powers at a time when so many of the old greats are retiring.

Let's hope he is the future of Basque cooking. It will be very bright indeed.

Edited by Culinista (log)
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Welcome to eGullet (from a relatively new poster, ha)! It is just my own impression, but comparing the Arzak of today bears no candle to the Arzak when Juan Mari was more firmly in control. He was the new Basque cooking, which was a marvelous balance between the classic and the modern/nouvelle cuisine. He was always learning, and I remember how he told me his experiments in subliminal seasoning, adding almost imperceptible amounts of aromas exotic--like pulverized ginger-- to classic Basque cuisine that could inobtrusively enhance the traditional profile of the dish. I'll never forget some of the dishes I had there.

Maybe because when we eat, we re-consume previous meals, I find my recent meals in Arzak not up to the old standard. Elena is talented and Juan Mari is a very proud papa to have such a successor to the family restaurant, but in my mind she is still feeling her way, along with the thousands of Ferranistas. She has not found her own cuisine. I say give her a few years' breathing space to come into her own without too much undue early scrutiny. In a way, her inheriting her father's kitchen is a big burden, since externally it seems like an unbroken continuity. I predict Arzak is like a phoenix, and right now we are in the molt stage. Elena has an impeccable culinary pedigree and talent, so all she needs is time and space.

All of these comparisons of Arzak and Mugaritz are in a sense unfair, although its understandable that it arises when travelers to Donostia are trying to decide where to budget their few meals. Even though I would call Arzak disappointing, it has an enduring classic appeal and is easy to like for first timers. Mugaritz is totally different. Andoni, like all geniuses, is not easy to understand because there are so few previous references. If you love the aesthetics of Michel Bras, admire the technical virtuosity of El Bulli but don't like eating ringside in a circus, you'll adore Mugaritz. It's not for everyone, thank goodness. If I were to characterize today's Restaurant Arzak, it's like seeing Joel Robuchon going through a midlife crisis. Andoni is still reaching for the peak of his powers at a time when so many of the old greats are retiring.

Let's hope he is the future of Basque cooking. It will be very bright indeed.

Thank you, Culinista. Your review of Juan M Arzak's talents before Elena's presence in the kitchen as Juan's protege, is very accurate! Infrequent Spanish diners whatever their country's allegiance, have little perspective about food in either Cataluyna or the Basque country.

Your description of Andoni's talents is so very sure-footed. Your culinary assessment is also without debate. I commend your perspicasity. Could you let us know about your extraordinary wisdom about vaious chefs and their talents? Judith Gebhart

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Infrequent Spanish diners whatever their country's allegiance, have little perspective about food in either Cataluyna or the Basque country.

Perhaps veering off-topic, but I don't agree. I suppose perspective is in the eye of the beholder. I think that it is quite possible to have an interesting and illuminating perspective based on a diverse set of experiences. I have the great fortune of living in Spain, but I'm very interested in hearing what visitors have to say about the food, particular meals, restaurants, etc.--whether it is their first time visiting or their twentieth.

About the "circus" of El Bulli. I just can't reconcile the somewhat troubling and grotesque image of a circus with my experience there. It was one of the most relaxed and playful meals that I've had in my life.

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About the "circus" of El Bulli. I just can't reconcile the somewhat troubling and grotesque image of a circus with my experience there. It was one of the most relaxed and playful meals that I've had in my life.

The circus is supposed to be fun and playful. :biggrin:

To clarify, I've been to El Bulli in 2000 and loved it, most lately in June 2005 and still liked it very much but less than before. I think the focus is now completely off food per se and onto developing techniques, which they still do better than anyone. Of course, the magic show is exactly why one goes to El Bulli. I don't go to there to eat, I go to watch the master and learn what everyone else will be doing in 10 years.

The main circus, however, is not so much El Bulli the restaurant but Ferranism the phenomenon. My comment was to distance Andoni from what has become a disparaging term for those who have been heavily influenced by El Bulli. We've all been to horrible El Bulli imitations, but Mugaritz is differrent. Andoni trained at El Bulli 2 years, not a few weeks like so many of the wannabes. He has a very deep understanding of Ferran's technical approach, mastered it completely, but he is going in a different direction. He also does not have the majordomo media personality that Ferran and Ferranists are projecting now. He is the image of restraint, and that could be hurting him with people hoping to be bowled over by a riot on the plate or a "Son of El Bulli" gastrotech experience. The technique is there, but it does not take center stage the way it does at El Bulli.

Ferran is without doubt the biggest media circus everywhere he goes-just watch his standing room only presentations at gastronomic events-but is also one of the humblest and most humane people on earth. Actually, watching Ferran present reminds me of the Beatles. Ferranmania threatens to drown out the music. He is not arrogant nor a show off, just incredibly brilliant and eager to teach others his discoveries. Compare that to Moto, where everything is more copyrighted and top-secret than a NASA lab. People call Ferran the Michaelangelo of modern Spanish cooking, but I'd compare him more to Leonardo, a scientifically minded artist far ahead of his time.

Actually, Andoni might be the Michaelangelo, since he is more concerned with pure beauty. I personally think of him as a Basque Zen chef.

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Oh, so you meant “circus” in a good way. Thanks for the explanation--I'll confess, I have never had fun at a circus and clowns give me the creeps, but I should probably discuss my unresolved neurosis on other forums...

I haven't been to Mugaritz yet, but I'm very much looking forward to it.

Agreed that the attention heaped on Ferrán is a bit overwhelming. I blame that not on him, but on the type of consumerism that drives people to always look for the next big thing. Soon--if it hasn't already happened--"the new France" will be "the not-so new France" and Ferrán and the like will again work in relative obscurity.

I like the notion of him being a sort of Da Vinci. I get the impression that--with his mind--he could be innovative in a wide range of fields. He has certainly fostered a multidisciplinary, renaissance approach to gastronomy. But he's also going further by tapping into that most Spanish notion of the esperpéntico: taking the traditional forms and ideals and warping them.

And there certainly are a lot of imitators who don't have the resources or inspiration to use the techniques judiciously. But--as with any art--I don't think it is fair to judge the genius by his pretenders. Imagine if Picasso's work were considered alongside the vast sea of horrific pseudocubist Rastro art.

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Culinista, there is one point you made that, to my mind, reflects a general misconception that Adria doesn’t just rely on technical innovations or advances in designing dishes, but views these techniques as an end in itself. I believe that this misconception originally arose from both 1) an inability to fit Adria’s cuisine into existing predefined styles, all of which he rejected in favor of an extreme reductionism, and 2) an exaggerated emphasis on his technical adaptations/innovations, again as a result of an inability to use the conventional approach of evaluating individual dishes, since Adria’s cuisine is not signature-dish oriented: almost each course (however memorable) represents a component of a meal, rather than a stand-alone entrée.

To say that Adria’s cuisine “is…off food …and onto developing techniques” is either to concede that there is no “intention” (as described in my recent post on El Bulli) realized in his dishes, since technique is nothing but a means, or that Adria’s dishes can’t achieve delectableness or provoke a positive sensual response unless the diner is intellectually stimulated by some amusing technical tricks. This is what, I believe, puzzles those who enjoy Adria’s cuisine as a simple sensual experience. This is not to deny that some of his dishes fail to achieve palatability, but to acknowledge that none of Adria’s dishes fail to make the chef’s intention clear. That is, if the dish fails, it is either due to some technical imperfection (such as his earlier experiments with agar agar, which added too much of an artificial tang, a drawback completely eradicated in 2005) or displaced conceptual accent (as in targeting uni’s metallic bitterness rather than sweetness), but certainly not due to the lack of a concept.

Whether it is a new technique or its adaptation to Western cuisine that predates the birth of the concept for a dish, or it is indeed the discovery of the technique that opens up new avenues for ideas is irrelevant, because it is the end-result that matters. Speaking of Mugaritz, for instance, Aduriz uses an unconventional approach in the sequence of development in his dishes, creating infusions and sauces first, and only later selecting main ingredients to match the sauces – a process sometimes prone to less-than-favorable results, as in the questionable combination of a watery and herbal infusion, yucca and his signature foie gras (a dish he fortunately reworked later).

Aduriz’s cuisine does bear a clear stylistic similarity to Adria’s and attempting to distance Andoni from “… those who have been heavily influenced by El Bulli” is in vain, because he has indeed been heavily influenced by El Bulli – some dishes, such as sea anemone in citrus infusion, could be said to have come out of Adria’s kitchen. However, there is nothing wrong with that: Being influenced by Adria doesn’t negate Aduriz’s talent and his ability to maintain individualistic characteristics that more often than not convey a sense of the invisible sublime. His cuisine is safer, devoid of the little bursting intermezzos so typical of Adria, having narrowed its focus on an approach that incorporates main ingredients and sauces/infusions, the connotation of which is intrinsically conventional, contrary to Adria’s reductive austerity in some of the dishes, predicated on isolating or deconstructing specific qualities of an ingredient in a calculated attempt to reach its essential core.

I consider Aduriz one of the most talented and inspirational chefs; however, in general, if he is to be criticized, it is not so much for his resemblance, or lack of such, to Adria, or for some fetishistic experimentalism tied to the use of herbs (a criticism made by some with which I wholeheartedly disagree), but for the occasional performance inconsistency and the lack of ingredient quality control (as in the foie gras escalope we had in 2004, showing an unappetizing vein and blemish). By the way, Mugaritz seems to be doing well: We had to rearrange our plans around Mugaritz’s availability in late May, since most of the week’s nights, about which we inquired a month ago, were already booked.

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the discussion and exchange of ideas is wonderful, but at the end of the day this is all about the end result and not about intentions, means, concepts, and other types of abstract issues

if before i taste a dish my mind is full of preconceived notions, i am most likely to fall prey to these notions rather than taste what i eat

in other words, i believe a gastronome should be a pragmatist rather than an idealist

in terms of real contribution, i would like to use music as a domain for metaphor

let us assume that arzak is the mahler of european cooking

does this make aduriz "benjamin britten"? i do not think so if we judge by results and not hype and publicity

and what does this make adria? i would be inclined to say schoenberg

the benjamin britten of cooking has not been invented yet

athinaeos

civilization is an everyday affair

the situation is hopeless, but not very serious

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…But we are beyond “what tastes good or doesn’t” already, and the point is that despite the fact that a dish can taste the same to two different diners, their opinions on this dish may be contradictory, because their judgment varies not as much in their primary, physical reaction to the dish, but in the interaction between their subjective and objective standards, “perception of meanings” that affects their final word. That is why in my post on the other thread I compared my thoughts to Vedat’s well-argued review as an example of how the same physical reaction to a dish may result in two opposite conclusions about its worth, or how the individual perception of what is important in a dish may render the same dish with a different verdict as to its deliciousness. "Pasión por la aceituna" ("passion of the olive"), an olive puree with passion fruit seeds, will never feel complete to a person seeking a center ingredient in the dish, independently of how it tastes. Others, on the other hand, may find it magnificent, because it delivers olive flavor in extreme concentration and a brilliant interplay of salty/bitter/sour to proclaim the dish self-sufficient and autonomous and therefore good.

I don’t believe that “intentions, means and concepts” are abstract issues, but a very concrete tool for defining objective criteria you would apply to evaluating different cuisines and individual meals/dishes, the same way as you would utilize your experience in art (which, based on your website, seems to be your passion) to apply different criteria in judging dissimilar styles (Impressionism versus Renaissance, for instance).

Objective food criticism is a fairly unexplored territory. Sadly enough, only rarely does a critical opinion extend its scope beyond a superficial evaluation of taste. The motto “I don’t know anything about it, but I know what I like” seems more acceptable in the context of food than in the context of art. In other words, what are the chances that one would consider it appropriate to judge a painting for posterity based on the sole criterion of his sensual response? My uncle, for instance, was never able to see the value in Picasso because he couldn’t come to terms with a cartoon-like, two-eyed display of a woman’s profile (“Dora Maar“). He just couldn’t abandon his well-established criteria of Socialist Realism, which failed miserably when applied to Picasso. In fact, it is the very knowledge that Picasso showed two aspects of a face (full face and profile) simultaneously to reflect two worlds of “self” and “outside of self” that brings a higher meaning to the painting, which otherwise could have been easily dismissed as a mere distortion of a human face. This is what I mean when I refer to the chef’s “intention” as being an integral part of our perception and evaluation standards.

I simply can’t understand why the art of food is discriminated against in comparison with other arts. Surely, every painting can be viewed from the perspective of only a primary response, personal likes and dislikes. Yet, would you not expect an experienced observer to recognize the individuality of an artist, be able to identify plastic form, to distinguish organic unions from plastic clichés assembled according to a stereotyped formula? Would you not expect him to learn to see, which is a long and arduous process involving constant practice in the sharpening of perceptions of color, of the play of light and shadow, of the sequence and rhythm of line, of the interrelationships between these factors that endow each of them with meaning? Would you not expect this observer to have knowledge of the traditions of painting and of the technical means by which the artist works? In fact, this is what defines objective criteria and a standard of judgment.

I can’t see why food should not be granted the same respect and diligent analysis, and would disagree with the notion that a rigorous approach of applying well-defined objective criteria to one’s subjective preferences is idealistic, while a purely sensual reaction with no cognitive response is pragmatic.

As to Adria = Schoenberg, Adria is far from achieving the same level of atonality. Only about three dishes in 33 (9%) in our meal were more intellectually palatable than sensually pleasurable.

Edited by lxt (log)
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